WASHINGTON — “Pls have Mr. G bring the documents,” reads the March 27, 2019, email from a State Department official to someone who worked for “Mr. G.,” better known as former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a central figure in the Ukraine pressure campaign that culminated in the impeachment of President Trump.
“S is happy to meet with him tomorrow for 10 minutes,” went an email, apparently between State Department officials, the next day (both sender and recipient are redacted, though the title “Office Manager to the Secretary of State” is visible in the sender’s signature). “S” was Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is suspected by Democrats to have had a more central role in that Ukrainian campaign than has yet been publicly acknowledged. (One of Pompeo’s top deputies, Lisa Kenna, also calls him “S” in scheduling emails.)
Trump was acquitted by the Senate on charges of abusing power and obstructing Congress earlier this month. But because agencies like the State Department and the Office of Management and Budget steadfastly refused House subpoenas, much remains unknown about how, exactly, the Trump administration decided to hold up $400 million in aid to Ukraine until that country announced investigations that could benefit Trump in the 2020 election.
While the impeachment proceedings are now over, ongoing lawsuits and upcoming books are expected to reveal still more details about the campaign to have Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky pursue the investigations Trump wanted. Progressive groups like American Oversight have continuing Freedom of Information Act lawsuits against the administration for documents, and a book by former national security adviser John Bolton is scheduled to be published within a matter of weeks. Marie Yovanovitch, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, also has a book in the works.
Democrats have little enthusiasm for impeaching Trump again, but if information about Ukraine continues to emerge that bolsters the Democratic narrative of a White House willing to misuse foreign policy, it could still prove a problem for Trump’s reelection campaign, and even beyond.
“Impeachment is not over until Americans vote in the election,” went the headline of a recent op-ed by Stuart Gerson in The Hill. Gerson, a former assistant attorney general who opposes the Trump administration, said that damaging information “can change public and congressional opinion even after a successful reelection.”
The small but significant trove of documents released on Friday by the State Department to American Oversight make clear that Giuliani — who was acting as Trump’s personal attorney — pressed American diplomats to consider the information he’d unearthed in Kyiv about corruption. Though the documents released amount to fewer than a dozen pages of emails, they nevertheless show aides to Pompeo unambiguously receptive to Giuliani’s overtures.
“He wanted to connect with Giuliani which I was able to do lickety split,” one of the emails says. Another has staffers seemingly rescheduling a conversation between Pompeo and Sean Hannity, the primetime Fox News anchor and Trump confidant. In the spring of 2019, Hannity aggressively promulgated the information Giuliani provided from Ukraine about American diplomats.
Beyond the impact on Trump, the continuing stream of information could prove damaging for Pompeo. The forthcoming book from Bolton will describe how Pompeo “acknowledged privately that there was no basis to [Giuliani’s] claims,” according to a New York Times description of the book’s content. Yet last March the secretary of state and Giuliani discussed Ukraine, though Pompeo has steadfastly refused to reveal the nature of those discussions. “I don’t have much to say with respect to the Ukraine investigation,” he said in November.
The Department of State did not respond to a request for comment. A press representative for Giuliani also did not comment on his meeting with Pompeo in March.
“Page by page, email by email, the full story of the Trump administration’s Ukraine scheme is going to come out,” American Oversight executive director Austin Evers told Yahoo News. “We now know Mike Pompeo and his aides encouraged Rudy Giuliani to deliver his bogus ‘dossier’ smearing Ambassador Yovanovitch during a week in 2019 when Giuliani’s henchmen were stalking the ambassador in Kyiv. If the White House and [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell thought obstruction and a rushed trial would keep the public from learning the truth, they will continue to be disappointed.”
The reference to “stalking” by Evers relates to Giuliani associates’ discussing potentially conducting surveillance on Yovanovitch in Kyiv. That discussion took place just two days before Pompeo’s aides apparently began working to set up a meeting between Giuliani and the secretary of state.
A longtime foreign service official, Yovanovitch was dismissed in May without explanation. Testimony by Yovanovitch, as well as revelations made to the press by Giuliani associate Lev Parnas, make clear that Giuliani had convinced Trump that she was standing in the way of investigations targeting Trump’s political opponents. Even when pressed, Pompeo refused to defend her against political attacks.
On March 20 — about a week before Giuliani and Pompeo met in Washington — John Solomon of The Hill published an op-ed alleging that Yovanovitch gave Ukraine’s top prosecutor, Yuri Lutsenko, “a do not prosecute list during their first meeting.” That list presumably included Burisma, an energy company that listed among its board members Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, who is now running for president.
Solomon’s columns on Ukraine became a centerpiece of the White House fixation on that country. An internal investigation published by The Hill last week found that Solomon committed multiple transgressions of journalistic ethics.
That investigation also notes that much of Solomon’s information came from Giuliani. “I really turned my stuff over to John Solomon,” Giuliani said in November.
Although the newly released State Department emails are vague, they do constitute further evidence that Giuliani was eager to also share his findings with Pompeo.
Six weeks before he reached out to Pompeo, Giuliani had met with Lutsenko in Warsaw. He returned to the United States plainly energized by what Lutsenko — who was fired after Zelensky took over in May — had told him. He began meeting with Parnas and other associates at the Trump International Hotel to build a case against Yovanovitch and, ultimately, against the Bidens.
Eventually, that case was shared with Pompeo. “Mr Giuliani has documents pursuant to his conversation with S the other day,” one internal State Department communication released to American Oversight read. “If possible, he would like 10 min with S upon delivery. He said he will drop off the documents whether S has time to meet or not.”
Responding to an email about what appears to be Pompeo wanting to connect with Giuliani, Pompeo aide Kenna wrote a single word: “Super!”
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