The scene is this: Former attorney for Donald Trump Rudy Giuliani and current attorney for Donald Trump Christina Bobb sitting on a balcony a few stories above sea level somewhere in (presumably) Florida. There are two copies of Bobb’s recent book, “Stealing Your Vote” — presumably not a how-to guide — perched precariously on the railing behind them; the two assure viewers that there is no wind so the risk of one of the books toppling over the edge and braining some unsuspecting retiree sitting poolside is small.
The occasion is a taping of “Talk with the Mayor,” a podcast Giuliani hosts, referencing his other former job: mayor of New York City. Behind the camera are Maria Ryan, Giuliani’s girlfriend, and a person Giuliani refers to as “Ted.”
Over the course of an hour, Giuliani and Bobb chatter about various subjects of interest to the sort of person who wants to hear Giuliani and Bobb chatter. Lots of stolen-election stuff, various other culture-war stuff, about what you’d expect.
And then during the show that aired Wednesday, there was the story in which Giuliani claimed that his 2019 trip to Ukraine culminated in a tarmac confrontation with agents of philanthropist George Soros — if not Soros himself! — necessitating an urgent escape by plane.
The pair got onto the subject by way of Chanel Rion, an on-air personality for One America News who, like the network itself, does little to hide her affinity for the former president. Rion and Bobb are friends, as Bobb made clear in the conversation with Giuliani, perhaps because Bobb, too, is a veteran of that same channel.
In late 2019, Giuliani and Rion traveled to Europe, and Ukraine in particular, to “investigate” ways in which Joe Biden might somehow have been entwined in corruption in that country. This was a period in which Trump was under investigation for having tried to leverage aid to Ukraine in exchange for getting that country’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to announce an investigation into Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.
The idea that Joe Biden had somehow been implicated in wrongdoing in relation to his son’s work had been debunked many times over by that point, but that was of no import to Giuliani and Rion. Eventually, One America ran a series featuring the two that was not only entirely speculative but relied in part on interviews with a man later identified by Trump’s own Treasury Department as an agent of Russian intelligence.
But Rion came up in conversation, and Giuliani told Ryan and “Ted” that they should get Rion on the show at some point to talk about when “we made a trip to Ukraine, and almost got arrested, almost got killed, almost got caught by Soros.”
By now, you are probably familiar with Soros. A wealthy philanthropist, he invests heavily in left-wing causes, earning him substantial negative celebrity on the right. He’s risen near the level of omnipotent boogeyman for many conservatives, in part because of his deep-pocketed generosity to their opponents and in part following a centuries-old antisemitic pattern of portraying wealthy Jewish people as the world’s puppeteers.
Here’s what Giuliani said happened when he and Rion were trying to leave Ukraine.
GIULIANI: Soros tried to figure out how we were leaving and cut off — to cut off — we got a private plane, he was going to cut it off. We were originally on a plane the next morning and we knew they were going to cause trouble at the airport. They were going to cause trouble with our visa, cause trouble with this, cause trouble with that. So we rented a private plane that night, but we didn’t realize he controls the private airport. And he found out that we rented the plane. But he couldn’t get there. And, literally, our plane is taking off, it’s like right out of Casablanca, and his car — and, actually, she saw him.BOBB: Yeah, she told me that.GIULIANI: Yeah, the car pulls up and she’s coming through the, through the part of the pathway for the—BOBB: The jetway? Yeah.GIULIANI: Yeah. And she says — I thought she was exaggerating. I think they may have gotten a picture of the car and she said, I think Soros is in the car.BOBB: Was it actually him?GIULIANI: Yeah, the old man was in the car. That’s what she said.
Before we assess the credibility of this particular story, we might assess the credibility of Giuliani more broadly. To do so succinctly: He is not terribly credible. He spent months before the 2020 election stoking false claims about Biden and Ukraine, and months afterward peddling easily debunked and often nonsensical claims about rampant election fraud. He has repeatedly demonstrated a willingness to share unconfirmed allegations, at one point even admitting that he didn’t think that validating his own stories before sharing them was his responsibility.
So here comes this story, in which George Soros — at the time 89 years old and primarily a resident of Westchester County, N.Y. — was in a car on the tarmac of a private airport in Kyiv, an airport Giuliani says Soros owned. (A small airport near Kyiv is privately owned … by an aircraft manufacturing company.) And not only was Soros there, Giuliani said, but his goons actively tried to block Giuliani’s egress.
GIULIANI: They’re trying to stop us. They try to come out on the. I think our pilot would have run —TED: What?!GIULIANI: It would have been an international because I think our pilot would have run over the car.TED: Yeah. He wasn’t stopping. He wasn’t stopping.GIULIANI: He was a tough guy, the pilot was a tough guy. These were guys that had fought in Iraq. I mean, we had some very good people.BOBB: The way that Chanel told the story, it really was kind of like a movie, where they’re, like, trying to stop the plane and you guys are taking off.GIULIANI: We’re just taking off. We’re taking off on a plane.TED: I mean, come on. How is this not —GIULIANI: He wasn’t in that car. That was his boys or his animals or whatever he has.
Presumably here Giuliani means “tarmac,” not “jetway.” But this is the story in full: A car with Soros in it rolls up and then there’s another car with his “boys” that tried to block the plane. The combat-veteran pilot, though, gets Giuliani in the air before Soros can stop him. Foiled again!
Rion actually told a version of this escape story back in 2019, after she and Giuliani returned to the United States. See if you can see the subtle ways in which her version differs from Giuliani’s:
“Within hours of news breaking of our presence in Ukraine, word came from sources in Kiev: roughly a thousand troops were suddenly patrolling the city. No public statement was made on why.”“And as media started closing in on our location, security determined we needed to leave the country. Three major testimonies taped and recorded, we chartered a midnight jet to Vienna and sped to the airport. We came upon an entourage of black Mercedes aligned along the terminal. Our security ushered us immediately away from the vehicles and we were told Ukrainian oligarch Viktor Pinchuk was seen entering one of these vehicles.”“Two other eyewitnesses claim to have spotted George Soros, but we have not confirmed this. The reasons for their being at the airport as we were departing have not been determined. We believe at this time it was a coincidence.”
The threatening enemies Rion sought to highlight in her 2019 coverage were other members of the media and whoever deployed those troops, presumably some agent of the Ukrainian government. Soros is injected here as an afterthought, his purported presence attributed not to her own observations but to unnamed other individuals. (It’s possible one of them was herself. Rion’s dedication to journalistic integrity is pliable.)
For Giuliani, though, Soros is the big selling point. Here’s this wealthy, diabolical left-winger, hellbent on … keeping Giuliani in Ukraine longer for some reason. It’s so important that this happen, Soros traveled from the U.S. or perhaps from 14 hours away in his native home of Budapest to intervene.
In a brief email statement, a representative for Soros told The Washington Post that Giuliani’s story “is obviously not true.”
After Rion and Giuliani returned, BuzzFeed News investigated the private plane they’d chartered, discovering that it belonged to Alexander Rovt, a Ukrainian American who has been linked to Ukrainian oligarch Dmitry Firtash. Firtash, it was later revealed, had bankrolled an earlier Giuliani mission to Ukraine.
We are left, then, asked to choose which scenario is more likely. Did George Soros figure out that Giuliani was in Ukraine, head to the airport and send his thugs out to stop the plane? Or did literally anything else happen?
The answer is left to you to divine.