Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani said in an interview Thursday that he plans to travel to Ukraine to push the country's leadership on several probes that may prove "very, very helpful" to President Trump, as Republicans continue looking to turn the tables on Democrats and prove that they -- not the GOP -- were the party that improperly conspired with foreign actors.
Ukrainian President-elect Volodymyr Zelensky, who takes office in June, will assume stewardship of two major ongoing investigations. One concerns evidence that the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Hillary Clinton campaign may have worked with Ukrainians to illegally help Clinton by revealing damaging information about then-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
The other investigation pertains to allegations that former Vice President Joe Biden pressured Ukraine to fire its top prosecutor in order to take the heat off the prosecutor's probe into a company that employed his son as a board member.
“I am going to tell him what I know about the people that are surrounding him, and how important it is to do a full, complete and fair investigation," Giuliani told the New York Times, referring to Zelensky.
"We’re not meddling in an election; we’re meddling in an investigation, which we have a right to do,” Giuliani continued, when pressed on whether his visit would be appropriate. "And this isn’t foreign policy — I’m asking them to do an investigation that they’re doing already and that other people are telling them to stop. And I’m going to give them reasons why they shouldn’t stop it because that information will be very, very helpful to my client, and may turn out to be helpful to my government.”
Giuliani said he expects to travel to Kiev, Ukraine's capital, in the coming days.
Democrats in turn lashed out at Giuliani, accusing the president of "asking a foreign government to investigate his political rival." But Giuliani dug in, tweeting Friday: "Explain to me why Biden shouldn’t be investigated if his son got millions from a Russian loving crooked Ukrainian oligarch while He was VP and point man for Ukraine."
Last week, Ukraine's embassy confirmed that a DNC insider reached out in 2016 to raise concerns about Manafort, given his previous work in the country.
"All ideas floated by [the DNC contractor] were related to approaching a Member of Congress with a purpose to initiate hearings on Paul Manafort or letting an investigative journalist ask President Poroshenko a question about Mr. Manafort during his public talk in Washington, D.C.," Ukraine's ambassador to the U.S., Valeriy Chaly, said. "The embassy representatives unambiguously refused to get involved in any way, as we were convinced that this is a strictly U.S. domestic matter."
Ukraine's investigation into interference with the U.S. election commenced after an unearthed audio recording showed that a senior Ukrainian anticorruption official apparently admitted to leaking Manafort's financial information in 2016 -- including his ties to pro-Russian actors in Ukraine -- to benefit Clinton. The eventual leak of the so-called "black ledger" files led to Manafort's abrupt departure from the Trump campaign.
A Ukrainian court recently ruled that the Manafort document leak amounted to illegal interference in the U.S. election by parliamentarian Serhiy Leshchenko and Ukraine's National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU).
Ukrainian law enforcement officials said earlier this month they have a slew of evidence of collusion and wrongdoing by Democrats, and that they have been trying to share this information with U.S. officials in the Justice Department.
Trump, speaking to Fox News earlier this month, called reports that the Hillary Clinton campaign and DNC may have colluded with Ukrainians "big," and said the results of ongoing Ukrainian law enforcement probes into the matter should be publicized. And Giuliani wrote on Twitter, "Keep your eye on Ukraine."
Separately, Giuliani pointed to evidence that Biden improperly pressured Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and the country's parliament to fire Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin, in March 2016. At the same time, Biden's son, Hunter, served on the board of the Ukrainian natural gas firm Burisma Holdings -- which was owned by an oligarch, Mykola Zlochevsky, who in turn was being investigated by that same prosecutor.
Shokin was soon voted out by the Ukrainian parliament. After leaving office, Biden admitted on video that he had threatened that the U.S. would pull $1 billion in loan guarantees unless Shokin was terminated.
Biden also suggested that then-President Obama was aware of his actions.
“I said, ‘You’re not getting the billion,'" Biden recalled. "I’m going to be leaving here in, I think it was about six hours. I looked at them and said: ‘I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money.' ... Well, son of a b----, he got fired. And they put in place someone who was solid at the time."
However, Biden allies have cast his actions as part of his broad efforts to pressure Ukraine to oust corrupt officials.
"I have had no role whatsoever in relation to any investigation of Burisma, or any of its officers,” Hunter Biden said in a statement last week. “I explicitly limited my role to focus on corporate governance best practices to facilitate Burisma’s desire to expand globally.”
Hunter Biden left the company's board earlier this year.
Speaking to Bloomberg News, former Ukrainian official Vitaliy Kasko claimed that the probe into the oligarch was long dormant.
“There was no pressure from anyone from the U.S. to close cases against Zlochevsky,” Kasko said. “It was shelved by Ukrainian prosecutors in 2014 and through 2015.”
But in an interview with Fox News last week, Trump slammed Biden as being naive at best, and echoed Giuliani's calls for more investigation into the matter.
"I'm hearing it's a major scandal," Trump said, after urging Biden to explain the situation. "They even have him on tape, talking about the prosecutor -- and I've seen that tape. They have to solve that problem."