The transcript of a phone call between Rudy Giuliani and Ukrainian officials obtained by TIME reveals former President Donald Trump’s attorney attempting to shakedown Ukrainian leaders ahead of Trump’s own problematic call with the country’s president.
“Let these investigations go forward,” Rudy Giuliani told the presidential headquarters in Kyiv, Ukraine, his voice turning impatient. “Get someone to investigate this.” On the other end of the line, hunched over a speakerphone, two Ukrainian officials listened in disbelief as Giuliani demanded probes that could help his client, then-President Donald Trump, win another term in office.
The 40-minute call, a transcript of which was obtained by TIME, provides the clearest picture yet of Giuliani’s attempts to pressure the Ukrainians on Trump’s behalf. The President’s personal lawyer toggled between veiled threats—“Be careful,” he warned repeatedly—and promises to help improve Ukraine’s relations with Trump. “My only motive—it isn’t to get anybody in trouble who doesn’t deserve to be in trouble,” Giuliani said. “For our country’s sake and your country’s sake, we [need to] get all these facts straight,” he added. “We fix them and we put it behind us.”
The conversation on July 22, 2019, kicked off the campaign of intimidation that resulted in Trump’s first impeachment. For a year and half, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his aides said little about their interactions with Giuliani, not wanting to anger an emissary of the U.S. President. But now, as the Trump era ends with a historic second impeachment trial, the Ukrainians have begun to speak up about the circumstances that led to the first. They are also taking steps that could imperil Giuliani and his Ukrainian allies.
TIME reported that Igor Novikov, who was one of Zelensky’s close advisers during Trump’s first impeachment, has said he is willing to assist the ongoing investigation of Giuliani in New York.
The report also noted that “Zelensky’s government has taken legal action against Giuliani’s Ukrainian associates” and “has opened up to the media about the pressure campaign mounted by Trump and his allies.”
On Feb. 3, Novikov sent TIME a transcript of the Giuliani call, whose accuracy TIME has independently verified.
Giuliani did not respond to a detailed list of questions about the transcript of his call with the Ukrainian officials, the Ukrainian support for his disbarment and the federal investigation.
In the phone call with Zelensky’s aides in 2019, Giuliani was careful to avoid explicitly asking for a favor, according to the transcript. “I have no interest in anybody not telling the truth or exaggerating. It isn’t about political favor,” Giuliani said on the call. He also seemed keenly aware of the dilemma he was creating for the Ukrainians, and how it might make them feel. “You shouldn’t feel terrible,” he said. “All we need from the President is to say, ‘I’m putting an honest prosecutor [on these investigations], and he will dig up the evidence that presently exists.’”
But from Ukraine’s perspective, the call put the Zelensky government in a perilous position. “That first phone call left me in a state of shock,” says Novikov, who participated in the call along with Andriy Yermak, then a top adviser to Zelensky and currently his chief of staff. “After we hung up the phone, without a shadow of a doubt I knew that we were in grave danger.”
Image credit: Screengrab / Rudy W. Giuliani / YouTube