President Donald Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, said Wednesday there was nothing illegal about Trump campaign advisers meeting with a Russian lawyer purportedly offering dirt on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Bloomberg vis Getty Images
President Donald Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, said Wednesday there was nothing illegal about Trump campaign advisers meeting with a Russian lawyer purportedly offering dirt on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Now playing
02:06
Rudy Giuliani now says he won't make Ukraine trip
Joe Manchin
CNN
Joe Manchin
Now playing
02:03
'I never thought in my life ...' Why Manchin won't walk away from bipartisanship
Gaetz speaks to members of the media outside the hearing Michael Cohen, former attorney and fixer for President Donald Trump, testifies at before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform at Rayburn House Office Building February 27, 2019 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Last year Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison and ordered to pay a $50,000 fine for tax evasion, making false statements to a financial institution, unlawful excessive campaign contributions and lying to Congress as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential elections.
Alex Wong/Getty Images
Gaetz speaks to members of the media outside the hearing Michael Cohen, former attorney and fixer for President Donald Trump, testifies at before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform at Rayburn House Office Building February 27, 2019 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Last year Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison and ordered to pay a $50,000 fine for tax evasion, making false statements to a financial institution, unlawful excessive campaign contributions and lying to Congress as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential elections.
Now playing
06:11
'Bombastic, antagonistic, unapologetic': A look at Gaetz's political career
Former House Speaker John Boehner attends a ceremony to unveil a portrait of himself on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019 in Washington.
Michael A. McCoy/AP
Former House Speaker John Boehner attends a ceremony to unveil a portrait of himself on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019 in Washington.
Now playing
02:42
Boehner says Republican colleague held 10-inch knife to his throat outside House floor
President Joe Biden, accompanied by Vice President Kamala Harris, and Attorney General Merrick Garland, speaks about gun violence prevention in the Rose Garden at the White House, Thursday, April 8, 2021, in Washington.
Andrew Harnik/AP
President Joe Biden, accompanied by Vice President Kamala Harris, and Attorney General Merrick Garland, speaks about gun violence prevention in the Rose Garden at the White House, Thursday, April 8, 2021, in Washington.
Now playing
02:05
Biden calls for ban on assault weapons
CNN
Now playing
02:22
Biden: High-speed internet is infrastructure
AFP/Getty Images
Now playing
03:24
Donald Trump breaks his silence on Matt Gaetz
CNN/WLOX
Now playing
01:43
'He says the quiet part out loud': Borger reacts to GOP election official's remark
AFP/Getty Images
Now playing
02:30
Haberman: Trump had to be talked out of defending Matt Gaetz
CNN
Now playing
03:26
Georgia's Lt. governor says elections law was a result of Trump's misinformation
Now playing
02:38
GOP lawmakers can't give examples of why states need anti-transgender sports bills
CNN
Now playing
03:04
Avlon reacts to McConnell's advice to corporations
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 06:  U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the state of vaccinations in the U.S. in the State Dining Room of the White House April 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. President Biden announced that states should make all adults eligible for COVID-19 vaccine by April 19.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Alex Wong/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 06: U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the state of vaccinations in the U.S. in the State Dining Room of the White House April 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. President Biden announced that states should make all adults eligible for COVID-19 vaccine by April 19. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:12
'Smarten up': Biden admonishes states' restrictive voting laws
WAVE
Now playing
01:27
'It's stupid': McConnell's warning for corporate America
reality check thumb
reality check thumb
Now playing
02:48
John Avlon breaks down fraud claims among Trump donors
Now playing
06:22
Key figure in Gaetz extortion claims responds
(CNN) —  

It was a whirlwind 24 hours for Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump’s top personal lawyer. It began Thursday evening, when Giuliani told the New York Times he was going to Kiev on behalf of his client, and it ended Friday night when he said on Fox News that he was not headed to Ukraine after all.

In the intervening time, Giuliani set off a flurry of questions from the media and condemnations from Trump’s political opponents.

The entire ordeal captured in a bottle Giuliani’s unique role in Trump’s loose inner circle: both public advocate and provocateur, floating theories and schemes designed to sow doubt about the truth, all in the service of Trump’s own interests. It was also a showcase for Giuliani’s freelance, catch-as-catch-can approach to being a Trump attack dog.

Why was Giuliani going to Ukraine? He planned to meet with the country’s president-elect to encourage him to pursue two matters of interest to Trump: restarting an investigation into a Ukrainian company linked to the son of leading 2020 Democratic candidate Joe Biden, and looking into whether Ukrainians worked with Democrats to prompt the FBI investigation into Trump’s former campaign chair, Paul Manafort.

Wasn’t this encouraging a foreign power to influence a US election?

Nonsense, Giuliani told CNN Friday morning, because the 2020 election was still 18 months away. And besides, he told the Times: “We’re not meddling in an election, we’re meddling in an investigation, which we have a right to do.”

Why did Giuliani cancel his trip? He told CNN on Saturday that “the meeting would have accomplished little and may be in the hands of those who might misrepresent it.” He complained throughout the 24-hour period that the media refused to cover his version of events and that this contributed to his decision to cut the trip short.

News of the cancelation came hours after Trump told Politico in an interview that he planned to speak with Giuliani about the trip.

The Biden campaign called Giuliani’s now-scrapped trip an “attempt at a blatantly political smear.”

They pointed CNN to a long list of Democrats, including Rep. Adam Schiff and Sen. Chris Murphy, who have pushed back on Giuliani and the Biden-Ukraine story in general.

“It’s great to see all these strong progressive voices stand up to this attempt at a blatantly political smear which in and of itself reflects the urgent need for change and to restore the soul of the country,” a Biden campaign official told CNN.

Changing his story

One hallmark of Giuliani’s work for Trump is his shifting explanations, which can make following his story difficult. A week ago, for instance, Giuliani claimed to CNN he was done looking into any potential wrongdoing by Biden in connection to the Ukrainian company.

“I’m not working on this anymore. I stopped working on it a month ago,” he said.

But in the following days, he continued to discuss with CNN his questions about Biden’s role in 2016 in pushing for the ouster of Ukraine’s top prosecutor, who had been investigating the company on whose board Hunter Biden sat from 2014 to early 2019.

Giuliani produced no evidence beyond this that the former vice president had done anything wrong but suggested the trip to Ukraine could help encourage the government there to restart its investigation. He also continued to urge the Justice Department to conduct its own investigation into Biden.

“If he’s not guilty or it’s not provable, they should get it out of the way now,” Giuliani told CNN last week.

Just asking questions

But there’s plenty to suggest Giuliani was more interested in raising the potential issue of Biden’s wrongdoing than providing evidence for it. Asked several times in the past week to show CNN transcripts of his interviews with Ukrainian officials and documentation he says shows the Ukrainians were actively investigating the younger Biden and his company in 2016, Giuliani declined.

And by pushing a circumstantial but incomplete story – first through a May 1 article in the New York Times, then in his revelation of his now-aborted trip to Ukraine a week later – Giuliani had succeeded in keeping the topic alive. By Friday afternoon, Trump was even discussing the possibility of asking the attorney general to look into it, telling Politico that “certainly it would be an appropriate thing to” discuss.

He also said he had not yet spoken to Giuliani about his lawyer’s plans to go to Kiev, which Giuliani would cut short a few hours later, but that he was interested in the trip.

“I will speak to him about it before he leaves. I’m just curious about that,” Trump said, adding he has “not spoken to (Giuliani) at any great length” on the subject.

Whether he was chastised by the President, scared off by the charge he was seeking to meddle, or had never intended to go to Kiev in the first place, Giuliani won’t say. He tells CNN that his other reason for traveling there – for a long-planned private speech – has been postponed.

CNN’s Arlette Saenz contributed to this report.