Giuliani held phone call with Maduro amid Venezuela crisis

President TrumpDonald John TrumpDavis: Supreme Court decision is bad news for Trump, good news for Vance Meadows trying to root out suspected White House leakers by feeding them info: Axios Pressley hits DeVos over reopening schools: 'I wouldn't trust you to care for a house plant let alone my child' MORE’s personal attorney Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiDavis: Supreme Court decision is bad news for Trump, good news for Vance Sunday shows preview: Coronavirus poses questions about school safety; Trump commutes Roger Stone sentence Nadler: Barr dealings with Berman came 'awfully close to bribery' MORE was on a phone call with Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro last September, amid heightened tensions between the U.S. and Venezuela. 

Giuliani was on the call along with then-Rep. Pete SessionsPeter Anderson SessionsFormer FBI Director William Sessions dies at age 90 Texas kicks off critical battle for House control The Hill's review of John Solomon's columns on Ukraine MORE (R-Texas) as part of a diplomatic effort to ease Maduro from power. Sessions spokesperson Matt Mackowiak confirmed to The Hill on Sunday that the call took place. It was first reported by The Washington Post.

The development comes as Giuliani has emerged as a key figure in Trump’s alleged solicitation of foreign interference from Ukraine in the 2020 election, the central allegation in his impeachment. Giuliani appears to have again used his private role to play a part in foreign policy with regard to Venezuela. 

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White House officials did not know why Giuliani was involved on the call with Maduro upon finding out, one former senior administration official told the Post. 

“We didn’t know why Rudy was involved at the time,” the person told the Post. 

A White House spokesperson was not immediately available for comment. Giuliani did not respond to the Post's request for comment. 

Trump had vowed to take a stand against Maduro when he took office. Maduro won with nearly 68 percent of the vote, but his reelection in May was largely rejected by the international community over allegations of fraud and banning of opposition parties.  

In January, the U.S. formally recognized Maduro’s rival Juan Guaidó as president of Venezuela. 

Sessions was part of the back-channel effort to ease Maduro from power and accepted an invitation from Maduro to visit Caracas to try to negotiate a path to improved relations between the U.S. and Venezuela, the Post reported. 

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“He was pleased to help with this back-channel mission, which was coordinated with the highest levels of the U.S. State Department,” Mackowiak told the Post. He added that Sessions met with top U.S. officials before and after his trip.

People familiar with the State Department officials' roles, however, told the Post those officials did not initiate the trip or organize or participate in Sessions's meeting with Maduro. Several U.S. officials also disputed that Sessions's trip was sanctioned, according to the Post. 

“There was absolutely no interest or appetite for negotiations,” a former White House official told the Post. “We generally did not welcome efforts like this one. It wasn’t consistent with our policy goals. We saw it as a nuisance and a distraction.”

Sessions left Caracas with a list of concessions Maduro had agreed to, Mackowiak told the Post. The September 2018 call with Giuliani was reportedly a follow-up from the meeting.

Giuliani was introduced at the start of the call but was mostly quiet during the conversation, Mackowiak told the post. 

Sessions lost his seat in last year’s elections and is running for a different Texas congressional district next year.