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

President TrumpDonald TrumpTexas announces election audit in four counties after Trump demand Schumer sets Monday showdown on debt ceiling-government funding bill Pennsylvania AG sues to block GOP subpoenas in election probe MORE urged former national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonOvernight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on right Ex-Trump adviser Bolton defends Milley: 'His patriotism is unquestioned' MORE last May to put Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in contact with Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiAlabama official dismisses Lindell claim that 100K votes were flipped from Trump to Biden: 'It's not possible' Adam Laxalt to be called to testify in trial of Giuliani associate Eric Trump lawyer in New York attorney general's fraud case quits MORE, according to a report on the unpublished manuscript of Bolton's forthcoming book.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 MulvaneyHeadhunters having hard time finding jobs for former Trump officials: report Trump holdovers are denying Social Security benefits to the hardest working Americans Mulvaney calls Trump's comments on Capitol riot 'manifestly false' 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The latest allegation from Bolton's unpublished book, which is due out in March, comes as the Senate appears ready to acquit Trump in an impeachment trial focused on allegations he used his office to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 BidenTexas announces election audit in four counties after Trump demand Pennsylvania AG sues to block GOP subpoenas in election probe House passes sweeping defense policy bill 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 AlexanderLamar AlexanderThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats return to disappointment on immigration Authorities link ex-Tennessee governor to killing of Jimmy Hoffa associate The Republicans' deep dive into nativism 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.