All of this came two months before Trump made his July 25 phone call to the Ukrainian president in which he tried to extort an allied nation into interfering with a U.S. election and ended up getting himself impeached. But that phone call was not the first. During his call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump repeatedly mentioned Giuliani and it was clear that Zelensky was very aware of who Giuliani was and what he wanted. Zelensky even mentioned that “I will personally tell you that one of my assistants spoke with Mr. Giuliani just recently.”
And now CNN has not just a transcript, but the audio of that call between Giuliani and Zelensky’s top aide, Andriy Yermak. What it shows is Giuliani relentlessly badgering the Ukrainian official. As during Trump’s call a few days later, Giuliani makes it clear to the Ukrainian official that if they want good relations with the United States, the price is lying about Joe Biden.
In short, Giuliani’s demands to Yermak almost exactly mirror the call that Donald Trump made to Zelensky a few days later. But since Giuliani can’t be impeached, we’ll just have to indict him.
The phone call actually starts out with Giuliani explaining to U.S. diplomat Kurt Volker and Ukrainian official Andriy Yermak the whole convoluted conspiracy theory that he had developed in conjunction with discussions of agents for exiled oligarch Dmitry Firtash and former members of the ousted pro-Russian government. Incredibly enough, Giuliani even tries to convince Yermak of the whole “Ukranian server” conspiracy theory, in which the “Cozy Bear” hackers who stole emails from the DNC were actually members of a Ukrainian team working with Hillary Clinton to set up Donald Trump months before he was elected. What Yermak thinks of this mountain of bullshit isn’t immediately apparent.
Then Giuliani returns again and again to insisting that the Ukrainian government needs to appoint a special investigator to look into the “crimes” committed by Biden. Giuliani doesn’t insist that the Ukrainians find Biden guilty, just that they loudly and publicly support the stories he’s been passing off in The New York Times and elsewhere by announcing that they’re opening an investigation. And they should announce a second investigation into how former Ukrainian officials interfered in the 2016 election to help Hillary Clinton. If they would do this, said Giuliani, it would really help them get on the good side of the guy who happened to be in control of the military assistance they badly needed to fight off that pesky ongoing Russian invasion.
There is one thing that seems to be missing from Giuliani’s talk—any mention of by then former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. That is because Giuliani had already delivered on that promise to his corrupt friends. On May 10, Trump recalled U.S. Ambassador Yovanovitch based on a series of lies that Giuliani spread about her anti-Trump activities.
Ambassador Yovanovitch had been scheduled to leave just a few weeks later, but her departure was accelerated “after she became a target of political attacks by conservative media outlets and Donald Trump Jr.” All of it based on information spread by Giuliani.
The problem with Yovanovitch had nothing to do with her attitude about Trump, and everything to do with the fact that she was honest. Her strong support for an anti-corruption and bribery program was standing in the way of corrupt officials; the same officials who promised to give Giuliani what he wanted when it came to smearing Biden. So those corrupt Ukrainian officials handed lies about Yovanovitch to Giuliani, Giuliani handed them to Trump, and within days Donald Trump Jr. was attacking the ambassador on Twitter while Laura Ingraham went after her on Fox News.
The removal of Yovanovitch appears to be at the center of the current investigation into Giuliani. That investigation has been underway since at least October 2019, when two of the contacts helpfully provided by Firtash were arrested trying to leave the United States.