Two Ukrainians named in the whistleblower report that touched off an impeachment inquiry into US President Donald Trump have told CNN that his personal lawyer actively pushed for an investigation into his political rivals’ dealings in the country.
Andreii Telizhenko, who worked in the Ukrainian embassy in Washington between December 2015 and May 2016, says Rudy Giuliani approached him for a face-to-face meeting in May of this year.
And Sergeii Leschenko, an advisor to President Volodymyr Zelensky, says Giuliani began applying pressure on Zelensky’s team to dig up dirt on Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter shortly after the former comedian was elected in April 2019.
Each has a different perspective on the crisis – Telizhenko believes that the issues surrounding Biden merit further investigation – but both agree that Giuliani was open in his motivations.
There is no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of Joe or Hunter Biden.
Telizhenko is known for his repeated claims in the media that Democrats colluded with Ukrainian officials to dig up dirt on then-candidate Donald Trump and his team in an effort to boost Hilary Clinton’s chances in the 2016 elections. These claims have been repeatedly debunked.
According to Telizhenko, he and Giuliani spent about six hours in New York in late May of this year and discussed a range of issues including the business dealings of Hunter Biden in Ukraine.
Asked what was discussed, he replied: “My insights on what’s happening with the US-Ukrainian relationship and the DNC Ukraine collusion was also mentioned. Mr. Giuliani also asked me about Vice President Biden, what my thoughts was, what were my insights on him.”
When asked if this line of inquiry was a priority for Giuliani, Telizhenko responded, “Yes, he doesn’t hide it, it’s his work, that’s what he was hired to do – to represent the President of the United States and his personal interests.”
Telizhenko, who is 29 and a frequent visitor to Washington, says he has met with Giuliani about two or three times since their initial meeting, and insists that the debunked conspiracy theories against the Democratic Party should be investigated by both the US and Ukraine.
“No, there is no conspiracy theories. We need to investigate this properly to show to the public there is no conspiracy theories, or maybe there are, but that’s what we have to find out.”
Leschenko is clear about Giuliani’s motives. “For Giuliani it was the only interest in Ukraine,” Leschenko told CNN. “To get this information about Biden and to use this information in the US. He was not interested in Ukraine at all – what is going on here, [the] reform process, or anti-corruption effort, nothing. He was just focused on this topic.”
When asked if he believed Giuliani was acting on behalf of Trump, Leschenko says there was little room for doubt. “For sure (it was) not for his private purposes. He is not, let’s say, a private person to be interested in this whole mess, but just because he had relations with [the] American President.”
He recounted a conversation with a close associate of President Zelensky: “I met with some official from this administration before this inauguration and he said we know who Giuliani is, we know what is his role, we know that he is acting not just a private person but on behalf of his client (Trump).”
He added, “It was a clear fact that Giuliani acted on behalf of Trump and they are interested in Biden.”
Giuliani’s probes did not go unnoticed by an incoming Ukrainian administration desperate for US support and military aid to battle Russian-backed separatist rebels fighting for control of the country’s eastern regions. “No one wanted to start the presidency with a conflict with American counterparts,” Leschenko said.
CNN has asked Giuliani for comment. He has previously denied any wrongdoing and defended his efforts to get a Ukrainian investigation launched.
CLARIFICATION: Th headline on this story has been updated to more precisely describe what the Ukrainians named in the whistleblower report told CNN about Rudy Giuliani.
CNN’s Michael Warren contributed to this report.