What was the precise nature of the discussions Rudy Giuliani had with the Ukrainians – and did any money change hands? Cockburn poses these questions after hearing from a source who claims to have arranged a meeting for the president’s lawyer to help in his secret effort to find dirt on the Bidens. The source said that Giuliani met a Ukrainian émigré businessman in Europe and agreed to pay him a finder’s fee for any information on Joe Biden’s son, Hunter. The meeting this source describes is in addition to the one that Giuliani has already acknowledged, in Madrid over the summer, with an aide to the Ukrainian president.
If Cockburn’s source is telling the truth, where would this money have come from? (The hush money payment to Stormy Daniels, which resulted in a jail sentence for the president’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, shows why it matters where the money comes from.) And more importantly, perhaps, where would it have ended up? The president’s lawyer certainly has the right to pay any private citizen to help him with research. Cockburn also feels sure that such an experienced attorney would know well the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and would impress on any intermediary that no money should accidentally find its way into the pockets of Ukrainian officials. Still, it would be interesting to know the details of Giuliani’s Ukrainian ‘black ops’.
Giuliani has said of his efforts. ‘The president’s counsel is entitled to develop evidence.’ Whomever Giuliani met, and whatever agreements they made, or did not make, the result was that President Trump placed a direct call to his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky. What happened next is disputed. The president says he did use the call to talk about the Bidens – Joe and Hunter – and Hunter’s business in Ukraine, but he did ‘absolutely nothing wrong’. The conversation, he said, was about ‘largely the fact that we don’t want our people, like Vice President Biden and his son, creating to the corruption already in the Ukraine’.
However, according to an intelligence whistleblower, during the call President Trump made what has been described as an improper request – presumably this is the claim that he applied pressure for the Ukrainian authorities to find dirt on the Bidens. The most explosive aspect of L’Affaire Ukraine is the allegation that the White House put a hold on military assistance to Zelensky’s government in order to give Trump leverage. Military aid to Ukraine was suspended in early July, according to former officials quoted in the US media.
It’s hard to tell whom L’Affaire Ukraine hurts most, Trump or Biden. The former vice president’s son, Hunter, was hired by a Ukrainian oligarch to help run his oil and gas company – despite having no oil and gas experience, or any experience of running a business in Eastern Europe. Giuliani accuses Biden of getting a Ukrainian prosecutor general fired because he had investigated the oligarch for corruption. Cockburn has yet to see any evidence that Biden used the vice president’s office to help his son, Hunter. But it is quite possible that the Ukrainians thought they could influence a US vice president by having his son on the payroll. This is the way, after all, that it would be done in Ukraine. Surely America is different?
UPDATE: The Wall Street Journal now reports that Trump asked his acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney to put a hold on $391 in military aid ‘more than a week’ before the July phone call to Zelensky. The President denies any tit-for-tat, dirt-for-aid offer, but with Congress now pursuing this story, the questions about Ukraine aren’t going away.