8 days after his acquittal, Trump is openly admitting sending Giuliani to hunt for dirt on Joe Biden - reversing a key part of his impeachment defense
- President Donald Trump has reversed one of the central claims of his impeachment defense by openly admitting sending his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to Ukraine to hunt for dirt on his political rival Joe Biden.
- When asked in a Thursday podcast with Fox News personalty Geraldo Rivera if it was "strange" to send Giuliani to Ukraine, Trump said no, and praised Giuliani as a "crime fighter."
- During his impeachment trial, Trump distanced himself from Giuliani, and denied sending him to Ukraine last November.
- Trump was impeached by the House in December for abusing his power in pressuring Ukraine to announce a Biden probe, and using military aid as leverage. He was acquitted by the Senate last Wednesday.
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President Donald Trump on Thursday casually cast aside one of the central claims of his impeachment defense by openly admitting sending his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to Ukraine to hunt for dirt on his Democratic rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.
The president made the claim in a podcast interview with Fox News personality Geraldo Rivera, who had asked him if it was "strange to send Rudy Giuliani to Ukraine," and if he regretted the decision.
"No, not at all," said Trump, who then praised Giuliani as a "crime fighter."
Giuliani last year led a campaign in Ukraine to seek damaging information on Biden, a frontrunner in the Democratic nomination for the 2020 election. He tried to get Ukraine to open a corruption investigation into Biden's son Hunter and his role as a board member on Burisma, an energy firm in the company.
Trump previously said he did not direct Giuliani's efforts in Ukraine, in a bid to distance himself from damaging information that emerged during his impeachment trial in the House last year.
The president told former Fox News host Bill O'Reilly in November: "No, I didn't direct him, but he's a warrior, Rudy's a warrior."
During the impeachment probe, the president also distanced himself from Giuliani. But in Thursday's podcast the president made no secret of the fact that Giuliani had been acting on his orders.
"Here's my choice: I deal with the Comeys of the world, or I deal with Rudy," Trump said, referring to former FBI Director James Comey, who Trump fired for refusing to quash a probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Trump has accused senior intelligence officials, such as Comey, of being part of a partisan plot to end his presidency.
One of the claims Giuliani was sent to Ukraine to pursue - which has long been debunked - was the theory that Ukraine had helped US intelligence frame Russia for attempting to subvert the 2016 election.
The House impeached Trump last year for abuse his power and obstruction of justice in his quest to seek Biden dirt from Ukraine. He was acquitted by the Senate on February 5.
'FDR had a lawyer who was practically ... totally involved with government'
Trump also showered praise on Giuliani Thursday, and appeared to justify using his lawyer to conduct government business.
"So when you tell me, why did I use Rudy, and one of the things about Rudy, number one, he was the best prosecutor, you know, one of the best prosecutors, and the best mayor," Trump told Rivera in the Thursday podcast.
"But also, other presidents had them. FDR had a lawyer who was practically, you know, was totally involved with government. Eisenhower had a lawyer. They all had lawyers."
Giuliani, meanwhile, has maintained that in seeking information on Biden - and opening a corruption investigation into him - he was simply fulfilling his duties as Trump's defense attorney.
But no evidence has emerged to substantiate the accusations against Biden. Federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York are reportedly investigating whether Giuliani had acted as an unregistered foreign agent.
Giuliani has denied the claims.
Trump unleashed after acquittal
In the wake of his impeachment acquittal, Trump has renewed attacks on former officials he claims have plotted against him - such as Comey - and appeared to use his office to block lawsuits that could personally damage himself and his allies.
Earlier this week he attacked prosecutors who secured the conviction and recommended seven to nine years of jail time for his former adviser, Roger Stone. Top Department of Justice (DOJ) officially subsequently overruled the recommended sentence, and the prosecutors resigned en masse.
Despite the federal investigation into Giuliani, Attorney General William Barr said on Monday the DOJ had set up an "intake process" to investigate the information Giuliani uncovered on Biden in Ukraine - sparking accusations that he was enabling the politicization of the department to pursue the president's rivals.
Barr attempted to dissuade those accusations on Thursday, telling ABC News that Trump has "never" asked him "to do anything in a criminal case."
In a Thursday tweet, Trump also dangled New York Governor Andrew Cuomo a deal on immigration law, on condition that his state "stop all of its unnecessary lawsuits & harassment, start cleaning itself up, and lowering taxes."
The president did not specify which "lawsuits and harassment" he was referring to, but several probes into the president and his business have been opened by authorities in New York.