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The chain of phone calls that kept Giuliani at the center of Trump’s Ukraine pressure

Any effort to distance Giuliani from Trump just took another major hit.

President Trump's personal attorney was once a popular mayor of New York. Here's how he wound up in the middle of the Ukraine scandal. (Video: The Washington Post)

As President Trump put pressure on Ukraine, his personal attorney was working the phones.

On Tuesday afternoon, the House Intelligence Committee released a 300-page report summarizing its findings in the two-month impeachment inquiry focused on Trump’s interactions with Ukraine. The big picture wasn’t surprising: The committee, led by its Democratic majority, determined that there was “a months-long effort by President Trump to use the powers of his office to solicit foreign interference on his behalf in the 2020 election.” Specifically, that Trump leveraged an official White House visit and aid to try to compel Ukraine to launch investigations that would benefit him personally.

What was unexpected in the report was that the committee had also obtained phone records, including from Trump’s personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani, documenting how, at key moments, Giuliani was actively engaged in discussions with figures central to the inquiry.

Over the course of 58 calls on six days, Giuliani spent nearly two hours speaking with his associate Lev Parnas; with the Intelligence Committee’s ranking Republican, Devin Nunes (Calif.); with another attorney for Trump, Jay Sekulow; and with officials in the Office of Management and Budget. At times in this period, Giuliani spoke with people identified as connecting to him through switchboards in the White House or the White House Situation Room.

Those are just the calls for which the Intelligence Committee report offers specific details. There’s another instructive flurry of calls in early May as Giuliani was publicly exploring travel to Ukraine to assist his desired investigations. Those calls aren’t broken down with specific time stamps, but the exchanges are nonetheless revelatory.

Giuliani connected with someone at the White House on May 8 for more than six minutes. He also spoke with writer John Solomon, whose articles alleging impropriety in Ukraine were often cited by Giuliani and Trump, for about the same length of time. (Solomon is part of the loosely connected external team of attorneys and allies surrounding Giuliani that we’ve previously documented.) Giuliani separately spoke with Parnas and Derek Harvey, a Nunes staffer. Harvey traveled to Europe with Nunes at the end of last year, during a time the congressman was reported to have met with a former Ukrainian official. He was also in contact with other officials by phone, according to Parnas, and participated in Ukraine-focused meetings at Trump’s hotel in Washington.

The next day, with questions about Giuliani’s trip becoming public, he had lengthy conversations with Solomon and Parnas. After briefly connecting with White House switchboards, he had a four-minute call with someone at the White House. That evening, he had several more calls with Parnas.

On May 10, Giuliani spoke with Parnas several times. He then spoke for half an hour with Ukraine special envoy Kurt Volker, who offered Giuliani advice related to his potential trip to the country. After speaking with Volker, Giuliani reached out without success to Kash Patel, a member of the National Security Council and former Nunes staffer. The two eventually connected.

After speaking to Patel, Giuliani talked with someone calling from a number identified in the committee report by the prefix "-1.” The report doesn’t identify the number further, but it seems likely to represent Trump’s cellphone. Giuliani spoke to the “-1” number for 17 minutes and then to Parnas for an additional 12.

Giuliani canceled his trip later that day.

Where Giuliani’s outreach is best documented in the report is in relation to efforts to oust then-ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. This had been a focus of Parnas’s even before he worked for Giuliani, mentioned, for example, in the October indictment charging Parnas with campaign finance violations.

On April 1, Solomon published an article alleging improper behavior by former vice president Joe Biden in Ukraine — an unfounded allegation that would become central to the Trump-Giuliani pressure campaign.

The report suggests that Giuliani, through Parnas, pressured Solomon to target Yovanovitch.

“Between April 1 and April 7, Mr. Parnas exchanged approximately 16 calls with Mr. Giuliani (longest duration approximately seven minutes) and approximately 10 calls with Mr. Solomon (longest duration approximately nine minutes)," it reads. On April 7, Solomon wrote an article raising questions about Yovanovitch.

The report documents a number of contacts over the next several days between Giuliani, Parnas, and administration and government officials.

On April 10, for example, Giuliani and Nunes spoke several times over the course of 15 minutes, with Giuliani first calling Nunes and Nunes then returning the call. After sending a text message to an unknown number, Giuliani again called back — and tried a third time without success.

Later that same day, he spoke with Solomon for about five minutes.

On April 12, there were numerous contacts centered on Giuliani. In the morning, Parnas exchanged calls with Victoria Toensing, an attorney for whom Parnas did some translation work and who, with her husband, represented Solomon. That same day, Toensing was retained by two Ukrainians who had served as sources for stories by Solomon.

That same morning, Giuliani was contacted by the “-1” number. Over the course of the days documented in the report, Giuliani spoke with no individual contact more than “-1,” tallying at least 55 minutes. The records also indicate that “-1” always called Giuliani and not vice versa. On several occasions, the connections came after Giuliani called the White House.

He also spoke with someone at the Office of Management and Budget. It’s not clear who, but acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney remains the director of the OMB. (Walt Shaub, a former director of the Office of Government Ethics, tweeted that “there is no good reason for Rudy Giuliani to be talking to OMB and plenty of bad ones.”)

The afternoon of April 12 involved a lengthy chain of communications, with Giuliani talking to Toensing, Parnas, Sekulow and someone at the OMB. He spoke with “-1” for more than 12 minutes.

Parnas spoke with Solomon and Nunes — and Giuliani, numerous times.

Yovanovitch was ultimately forced out of her position and recalled to the United States. That occurred early in the morning (Kyiv time) on April 25. In the days prior, Giuliani spoke repeatedly with the White House, the OMB and Parnas.

“At 7:14 p.m. Eastern Time on April 25, Mr. Giuliani once again received a call from an unknown '-1′ number, which lasted four minutes and 40 seconds,” the report states. “Minutes later, Mr. Giuliani held a brief 36 second call with Sean Hannity, a Fox News opinion host.”

A few hours later, Trump called into Hannity’s show.

By early August, Giuliani had already met with a senior aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, and the administration’s desire for Ukraine to announce politically useful investigations had been explicitly conveyed. Giuliani, Volker and Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland had been working with Zelensky’s aide to develop a statement announcing the new probes.

On Aug. 8, Giuliani phoned or texted with people in the White House or at the OMB 19 times and had six contacts with the “-1” number, speaking for a bit longer than four minutes.

That call with “-1,” though, didn’t come easy. Giuliani texted the White House. An hour later, “-1” tried to contact Giuliani repeatedly, connecting only briefly if at all. Giuliani contacted the OMB without luck and then the White House multiple times. Only then did the individual identified as “-1” call back so they could speak.

The next day, Guiliani and Volker spoke, and Volker contacted Zelensky’s aide to try to finalize the desired statement.

On Tuesday, hours after the report was released, Nunes was interviewed by Hannity on Fox News. Asked if he’d ever spoken with Parnas, Nunes said he didn’t recall. “I remember that name now because he’s been indicted,” Nunes admitted. “But,” he added, “it seems very unlikely I’d be taking calls from random people.”

According to the report, Nunes and this particular random person spoke for more than eight minutes on April 12.

Felicia Sonmez contributed to this report.