Perry told The Wall Street Journal, in an interview published Wednesday, that Trump directed him this spring to seek out Giuliani, who pushed debunked conspiracy theories about Ukrainian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election instead of acknowledging that there had been Russian interference.
Perry said he contacted Giuliani as a way to set the stage for a meeting between Trump and newly elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, according to the Journal. The energy secretary’s meeting adds to a growing picture of Giuliani working with Cabinet officials to push Ukraine to launch investigations.
The former Texas governor became publicly linked to the Trump-Ukraine scandal earlier this month after sources familiar with the situation told Axios that Perry arranged Trump’s July 25 call with Zelensky and that the president said so in a recent conference call with House Republicans.
“The only reason I made the call was because Rick asked me to,” Trump reportedly said, according to Axios. “Something about an LNG [liquefied natural gas] plant.”
In the call with Zelensky, which is at the center of the House impeachment inquiry, Trump asked the Ukrainian president to interfere in the 2020 election by investigating political rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden. Trump also alleged that Ukraine has Hillary Clinton’s email server, asking Zelensky to look into cybersecurity firm Crowdstrike, which was hired to investigate the hack of the Democratic National Committee in 2016.
Perry’s phone call with Giuliani reportedly came after a White House meeting in May after Zelensky’s inauguration, according to the Journal. Officials at the meeting, including Perry and then-U.S. envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker, encouraged Trump to meet the new president, but Trump said that they needed to work with Giuliani to resolve the lawyer’s concerns about Ukraine. Perry reportedly understood those concerns to be related to Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
Giuliani has been specifically pushing the conspiracy theory that it was Ukraine and not Russia that interfered in the 2016 election. Former special counsel Robert Mueller and the U.S. intelligence community investigated and found that Russia had interfered in the election to help Trump win.
Perry told the Journal that some of the conspiracy theories that Giuliani related in their call included that Ukraine was responsible for a dossier on Trump’s alleged ties to Russia, that Ukraine had Clinton’s email server and that the country’s government made up false evidence to send former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort to jail.
“I don’t know whether that was crap or what,” Perry told the newspaper. “I’m just saying there were three things that he said. That’s the reason the president doesn’t trust these [Ukrainian] guys.”
The three House committees in charge of leading the impeachment inquiry subpoenaed Perry last week, demanding that the energy secretary turn over documents related to the Trump administration’s communications with Ukraine.
“Recently, public reports have raised questions about any role you may have played in conveying or reinforcing the President’s stark message to the Ukrainian President,” the chairmen of the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight and Reform committees wrote Oct. 10.
The letter also said the reports bring up questions “about your efforts to press Ukrainian officials to change the management structure at a Ukrainian state-owned energy company to benefit individuals involved with Rudy Giuliani’s push to get Ukrainian officials to interfere in our 2020 election.”