The House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday released a trove of previously unseen documents that dramatically raise the stakes of the impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump.
Among the documents is a letter that Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, sent to Ukraine’s newly inaugurated president, Volodymyr Zelensky, in May 2019.
Dated May 10, 2019, the letter showed the former New York mayor telling Zelensky he wanted to meet in person on May 13 and May 14.
“Just to be precise, I represent him as a private citizen, not as President of the United States,” Giuliani wrote. “This is quite common under American law because the duties and privileges of a President and a private citizen are not the same.”
One day before Giuliani wrote the letter, The New York Times reported that he wanted to meet with Ukrainian officials to discuss former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.
Specifically, he wanted the Ukrainian government to investigate Hunter Biden’s involvement as a board member of the Ukrainian natural-gas company Burisma Holdings.
“We’re not meddling in an election, we’re meddling in an investigation, which we have a right to do,” Giuliani told The Times when asked whether by going to Ukraine and pressing for the inquiry, he was inviting foreign interference in the 2020 election.
Trump and Giuliani’s efforts to pressure Ukraine into delivering dirt on the Bidens and Burisma make up the center of Congress’ impeachment proceedings against Trump. Last month, the House of Representatives impeached Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
The president has said that his request for Ukraine to investigate the Bidens was linked to an interest in rooting out corruption, which is in the US’s national interest.
But Giuliani’s letter directly undercuts that because it specifies he was acting in his capacity as Trump’s private attorney; in other words, he was representing the president’s personal political interests, and not the country’s interests.
Tuesday’s document dump came one day before House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is scheduled to announce the impeachment managers — lawmakers who will lead the prosecution against the president — in Trump’s upcoming Senate trial.
Two names that have been floated so far are Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
Both men were instrumental in overseeing the lower chamber’s investigation into the president’s conduct, and Schiff, as a former prosecutor, is widely expected to be the tip of the Democratic spear in the Senate trial.
Later Wednesday, the House will formally vote to transmit the two articles of impeachment against Trump to the Senate, officially triggering a trial. The Republican-led Senate will then vote on the rules of the trial. One of the key questions they’re expected to address is whether or not to call witnesses.
Democrats have insisted that in order for the trial to be fair and impartial, the Senate must call witnesses to testify. Republicans, meanwhile, argue that they don’t need anymore witness testimony because the impeachment proceeding itself has been a sham process.
But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell conceded to reporters on Tuesday that he expects at least a handful of Republican senators to side with Democrats on calling witnesses, meaning he may have to cave after all.