President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, negotiated earlier this year to represent Ukraine’s top prosecutor for at least $200,000 during the same months that Giuliani was working with the prosecutor to dig up dirt on Vice President Joe Biden, according to people familiar with the discussions.
The people said that Giuliani began negotiations with Ukraine’s top prosecutor, Yuri Lutsenko, about a possible agreement in February. In the agreement, Giuliani’s company would receive payment to represent Lutsenko as the Ukrainian sought to recover assets he believed had been stolen from the government in Kyiv, those familiar with the discussions said.
The talks occurred as Giuliani met with Lutsenko in New York in January and then in Warsaw in February while he was also gathering information from Lutsenko on two topics Giuliani believed could prove useful to Trump: the involvement of Biden, and his son, Hunter, in Ukraine and allegations that Ukraine, not Russia, had interfered in the 2016 election.
Trump ultimately pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to open investigations into the two issues during a July 25 phone call between the two leaders, a call that sparked a whistleblower complaint and the Congressional impeachment inquiry.
A person familiar with the negotiations described a series of contracts that were drafted earlier this year in which Giuliani would have worked for Lutsenko or separately, the Ukrainian Ministry of Justice.
For Lutsenko, the agreement would have provided a pipeline to Trump’s lawyer and, through him, potentially to other top U.S. officials. For Giuliani, the agreements would have been a way to accrue financial benefit from a person who was also providing him politically damaging information that could help another client, the president of the United States.
Giuliani has said he doesn’t charge Trump for legal services. Trump directed U.S. diplomats to work with Giuliani on Ukraine issues.
The agreements were never executed and there is no indication that Giuliani was ultimately paid by Lutsenko or other Ukrainian officials. But the negotiations proceeded far enough that a series of legal agreements were drafted under which Giuliani’s company would have received more than $200,000 to work for the Ukrainians, people familiar with the agreements said.
Some versions of the agreement envisioned Washington husband-and-wife lawyers Victoria Toensing and Joe diGenova, also playing a role and receiving payment.
A February draft retainer agreement with Lutsenko called for the trio to help recover money allegedly stolen from Ukraine. The draft called for Lutsenko to retain Giuliani Partners, as well as diGenova and Toensing, and pay a $200,000 retainer to Giuliani Partners.
The person said that another retainer agreement, drafted in March, called for Giuliani Partners to receive $300,000 from the Ukrainian Ministry of Justice for help locating the supposedly stolen assets. That draft agreement also stated that Toensing and diGenova would be working on the matter. That agreement called for payments to be made to Giuliani Partners.
Yet another proposal called for the Ukrainian Justice Ministry to hire Toensing and diGenova for asset recovery, but did not mention Giuliani.
An attorney for Giuliani declined to comment on the negotiations. Lutsenko, who served as Ukraine’s top prosecutor until August, could not be immediately reached for comment. But in an interview with the publication Ukrainian Truth earlier this month, Lutsenko described how he was eager for Giuliani to help him get a meeting with the U.S. attorney general to discuss evidence he had uncovered that Ukrainian assets had been routed through U.S. bank accounts.
Speaking in Ukrainian, Lutsenko said that Giuliani at first agreed he could help make the connection but that he never did.
‘‘For me, this is an absolute mystery. A few months later, a new United States Attorney General was selected. I called back several times with assistants or advisers to Giuliani with the question: ‘Will there be or will not be a meeting?’ ‘‘ Lutsenko said.
He said Giuliani told him he would have to hire a lobbyist to get the meeting. ‘‘They even offered me such a company,’’ Lutsenko said. ‘‘I said that I am the prosecutor general of Ukraine and will not pay a dime.’’
He said he was told it would be ‘‘impossible’’ for him to get the meeting without paying and he continued to refuse. ‘‘’I will not pay money for any meeting,’’’ he said.
In a statement, a spokesman for Toensing and diGenova said the couple had previously said they had agreed to represent people they described as ‘‘Ukrainian whistleblowers.’’ Spokesman Mark Corallo confirmed those discussions included possible representation of Lutsenko.
‘‘All the other names are attorney client privileged and it is unfortunate that some unethical person chose to violate that privilege,’’ he said. Corallo said that all of the retainer letters under consideration included ‘‘the necessary notice of FARA registration,’’ referring to the Foreign Agents Registration Act. That suggests the couple had planned to register as foreign lobbyists if the agreements had been executed.
However, Corallo said that no representation was ever finalized because a trip that Toensing planned to Kyiv in May was canceled after the New York Times reported that she was accompanying Giuliani, who had hoped to meet with Ukrainian officials to press them to open an investigation into the Biden and his son, who sat on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.
‘‘No money was ever received and no legal work was ever performed because the trip was cancelled,’’ Corallo said.
Federal prosecutors in New York have been investigating Giuliani and two associates he tapped to help him conduct investigations in Ukraine for a wide range of possible crimes, including wire fraud and failure to register as a foreign agent, people familiar with the matter have said. The two associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, were charged earlier this year in a campaign finance case.
Prosecutors alleged Parnas and Fruman used foreign money to buy political influence in the U.S., directing large donations to U.S. politicians as they ‘‘sought to advance their personal and financial interests and the political interests of at least one Ukrainian government official with whom they were working.’’
In particular, the indictment alleged the pair tried to force the ouster of then-U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch ‘‘at the request of one or more Ukrainian government officials,’’ Though no Ukrainian government official is named in the indictment, people familiar with the matter say the references refer to Lutsenko.
The indictment alleged Parnas and Fruman donated to a congressman to help advance their agenda. People familiar with the matter have said the lawmaker was Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, who also advocated for Yovanovitch’s removal. Sessions has said he is cooperating with the investigation and did not have any knowledge of Parnas and Fruman’s alleged scheme.
The indictment made no mention of Giuliani. But witnesses in the House impeachment inquiry have testified in recent weeks that the president’s personal lawyer seemed to be driving a campaign to remove Yovanovitch from her post. Witnesses also identified Lutsenko as the Ukrainian official who appeared to be advocating for Yovanovitch’s removal.
Lutsenko had publicly clashed with the U.S. ambassador. In March, Lutsenko gave an interview to conservative columnist John Solomon, alleging that Yovanovitch had interfered with Ukrainian prosecutions. The State Department issued a statement calling the allegation an ‘‘outright fabrication.’’
At the time, Solomon was working closely with both Giuliani, as well as Toensing and diGenova, on matters related to Ukraine. Joseph Bondy, a lawyer for Parnas, has said that the group met frequently in the spring of 2019 at the Trump Hotel in Washington to trade information and discuss strategy. Bondy did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
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The Washington Post’s David L. Stern and Natalie Gryvnyak in Kyiv contributed to this report.