Giuliani associates urged Ukraine's prior president to open Biden probe in exchange for state visit: report

Giuliani associates urged Ukraine's prior president to open Biden probe in exchange for state visit: report
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Two associates of President TrumpDonald TrumpFormer defense secretary Esper sues Pentagon in memoir dispute Biden celebrates start of Hanukkah Fauci says lies, threats are 'noise' MORE’s personal attorney Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiFormer NYC police commissioner to testify before Jan. 6 committee, demands apology Midterms are coming: Will we get answers on Jan. 6 before it's too late? Subpoenas show Jan. 6 panel's focus on Trump's plans MORE reportedly urged Ukraine’s previous leader to investigate former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden to provide update Monday on US response to omicron variant Restless progressives eye 2024 Emhoff lights first candle in National Menorah-lighting ceremony MORE’s son in exchange for a state visit to Washington.

The request came months before Trump’s highly publicized July 25 phone call with the country's current president, Volodymyr Zelensky, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

Lev Parnas, Igor Fruman and then-Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko met in late February at the offices of Ukrainian general prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko in Kiev, the Journal reported.

Lutsenko reportedly said in March that he was investigating Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, but found in May that there was no evidence of wrongdoing.

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There was no White House meeting as a result of the discussions, the Journal reported.

The reported meeting came months before Trump’s phone call with Zelensky, during which he urged Ukraine's current president to investigate Biden and his son. The call is now at the heart of House Democrats' impeachment inquiry into Trump.

The meeting with Giuliani's associates reported by the Journal also shows efforts of those close to Trump, as early as February, to urge Ukraine to look into the U.S. president’s political rivals.

During the time of the meeting, Poroshenko was in a tight race for reelection and told his aides he wanted to visit Washington — a trip that could boost his chances of keeping his position, the Journal reported. As a result, he was open to Giuliani’s associates’ suggestion, according to the newspaper, but he ultimately did not win reelection and the visit never came to fruition.

“He needed a Hail Mary and a state visit in Washington and was ready to become Trump’s best friend in order to secure support,” a source told the paper.

Parnas and Fruman were arrested last month on campaign finance charges. Federal authorities allege they violated the law to funnel money to numerous Republican committees, including a $325,000 contribution in May 2018 to a pro-Trump super PAC called America First Action. They have pleaded not guilty.

The two reportedly introduced Giuliani to several Ukrainian officials to discuss the dismissal of a top prosecutor in Ukraine. Trump has claimed without evidence that Biden sought to pressure Ukraine to fire the prosecutor because he was looking into a company that Hunter Biden worked for, though no evidence has emerged of any wrongdoing.

Trump has faced scrutiny among House Democrats for his July call urging Ukraine to open an investigation into the Bidens, and has faced questions about his decision to temporarily hold up nearly $400 million in aid to Ukraine amid efforts to secure such a probe.

A whistleblower complaint over the call has since spurred House Democrats to open an impeachment inquiry, and several current and former Trump administration officials have testified behind closed doors in the investigation.

Trump has continued to deny any quid pro quo in his dealings with Ukraine, though multiple witnesses deposed in the impeachment inquiry have testified otherwise.