Bolton says Trump told him to set up Giuliani meeting in Ukraine: report

President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenators demand more details from Trump on intel watchdog firing Overnight Health Care: Trump steps up attack on WHO | Fauci says deaths could be lower than first projected | House panel warns federal stockpile of medical supplies depleted | Mnuchin, Schumer in talks over relief deal Trump says he'll look into small business loan program restricting casinos MORE urged former national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonChina sees chance to expand global influence amid pandemic Trump ignores science at our peril Bolton defends decision to shutter NSC pandemic office MORE last May to put Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in contact with Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump: Tough times but progress being made Giuliani touts experimental coronavirus treatment in private conversations with Trump Trump team picks fight with Twitter, TV networks over political speech MORE, according to a report on the unpublished manuscript of Bolton's forthcoming book.

The New York Times reported that Trump gave Bolton the directive during an Oval Office meeting in May 2019. Acting chief of staff Mick MulvaneyMick MulvaneyOne year in, Democrats frustrated by fight for Trump tax returns Meadows joins White House in crisis mode Meadows resigns from Congress, heads to White House MORE and White House counsel Pat Cipollone, who has been leading the president's defense in the Senate impeachment trial, were also present, Bolton wrote. Bolton wrote that he did not make the phone call.

The latest allegation from Bolton's unpublished book, which is due out in March, comes as the Senate appears ready to acquit Trump in an impeachment trial focused on allegations he used his office to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political rivals.

Trump reportedly told Bolton to call Zelensky and ensure he met with Giuliani, who is the president's personal attorney and who has been accused of conducting a shadow foreign policy in Ukraine focused on pursuing damaging information about former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenThe Hill's Campaign Report: Sanders exits, clearing Biden's path to nomination Former Clinton staffers invited to celebrate Sanders dropping out: report Sanders exit leaves deep disappointment on left MORE.

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The May meeting would mark the earliest known instance of Trump's involvement in the Ukraine pressure campaign that sparked off the impeachment inquiry.

In a statement obtained by The Hill, Trump denied the latest allegation from his former national security adviser, who left the White House in September.

“I never instructed John Bolton to set up a meeting for Rudy Giuliani, one of the greatest corruption fighters in America and by far the greatest mayor in the history of N.Y.C., to meet with President Zelensky," Trump said in a statement. "That meeting never happened.”

Giuliani told the Times in a brief interview that the claim about the meeting involving Mulvaney and Cipollone was "categorically untrue."

Reports on allegations contained in Bolton's unpublished manuscript have leaked out in recent days, adding to the drama surrounding Trump's impeachment trial.

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Cipollone's involvement in meetings about the pressure campaign on Ukraine would place additional scrutiny on the White House counsel. While leading Trump's defense in the impeachment trial, Cipollone has insisted there is no evidence of wrongdoing by the president and argued that the Senate does not need to hear from Bolton.

The Times first reported Sunday that Bolton writes in the manuscript that Trump said he did not want to release nearly $400 million in security aid for Ukraine until the country agreed to help investigate his political rivals.

The White House released a letter on Wednesday indicating it would seek to block publication of the manuscript on the grounds it contains classified information, escalating the fight over the book.

Democrats have pushed to subpoena the former national security adviser as a witness, insisting he has relevant, firsthand information about Trump's attempts to leverage the presidency for political gain.

But Republicans are likely to have enough votes to block subpoenaing additional witnesses and evidence, instead moving to acquit Trump as early as Friday night. Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderSticking points force stimulus package talks to spill into Sunday GOP drafting stimulus package without deal with Democrats Senate coronavirus stimulus talks spill into Saturday MORE (R-Tenn.), seen as the swing vote on the issue, said late Thursday that while Trump's conduct was "inappropriate," it does not warrant removal from office and therefore he would not support calling new witnesses.

Updated at 12:45 p.m.