President Donald Trump told a U.S. delegation that had just returned from Ukraine in May to "deal with Rudy" — making clear that personal attorney Rudolph Giuliani had a key role in shaping his view of the country, according to transcripts of congressional testimony released this week.
"Rudy had some bad issues with Ukraine, and until Rudy was satisfied, the president wasn't going to change his mind," European Union Amb. Gordon Sondland told House Democratic investigators in his testimony, The Washington Post reports.
Kurt Volker, who was special envoy to Ukraine at the time, reached out to Giuliani after the May 23 meeting with Trump.
He tried to court the former New York City mayor's support for the administration's foreign policy agenda and tried to put him in touch with a top Ukrainian official, the Post reports.
Volker and Sondland also solicited Giuliani's input on the wording of a public statement that the new Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy was thinking about making, according to text messages presented during testimony.
Giuliani was cited by name 480 times during depositions by Sondland and Volker, more than any Trump administration official.
The lawyer was repeatedly described as "inexplicably powerful and difficult to control," the Post reports.
"He was always swirling around somewhere," Sondland said of Giuliani in his deposition, adding that he did not believe anyone wanted to deal with him.
Giuliani did not respond to a request for comment from the Post, though he disclosed Wednesday that he had retained legal counsel.
He has said that he was working on behalf of President Trump and along with the State Department, keeping Volker and Sondland apprised of his Ukrainian dealings.
Trump told Zelenskiy in his July 25 telephone call to deal directly with his personal attorney.
"I will have Mr. Giuliani give you a call," Trump said, according to a summary of the call released in September by the White House.
But top diplomats believed Giuliani was poisoning the president's view of Ukraine, the Post reports.
Volker testified that Trump told he and Sondland that Giuliani had labeled Ukrainians as "all corrupt, they're all terrible people, that they were — they tried to take me down — meaning the president in the 2016 election."
Sondland testified that he believed officials were powerless to thwart Giuliani.
"It's something we have to deal with," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said of Giuliani, rolling his eyes, Sondland testified.
After Zelenskiy's election, Sondland, Volker, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, and Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., briefed Trump on a trip they had taken to Ukraine and to lobby for a meeting between the leaders.
But Trump was uninterested, Sondland testified, "going on and on and on about his dissatisfaction with Ukraine.
"He didn't even want to deal with it anymore.
"And, he basically said, 'go talk to Rudy, he knows all about Ukraine,'" Sondland testified, saying that the meeting was cut short and that Giuliani was not present.
Sondland, according to the Post, told the hearing that the group was "disappointed" at the session but felt they faced an impossible choice: either abandon the goal of a Trump-Zelenskiy meeting or deal with Giuliani.
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