KEY POINTS

  • The reported meeting took place more than two months before Trump asked Ukraine's president to investigate the Bidens
  • The meeting came less than a month after former Vice President Joe Biden announced he would seek the Democratic presidential nomination
  • Trump personal attorney Rudy Giuliani denies the meeting took place

Update: 1:52 p.m. EST

President Trump on Friday denied he ever told former national security adviser John Bolton to pave the way for Rudy Giuliani to meet with Ukraine's president.

“I never instructed John Bolton to set up a meeting for Rudy Giuliani, one of the greatest corruption fighters in America and by far the greatest mayor in the history of N.Y.C., to meet with President Zelensky," Trump said in a statement. "That meeting never happened.”

Original story

Former national security adviser John Bolton writes in his forthcoming book that President Trump asked him to help pressure Ukrainian officials into investigating Democrats last May, much earlier than had been suspected, the New York Times reported Friday.

The pressure campaign is a the heart of impeachment articles against Trump, and the report comes on what could be the final day of the president’s Senate trial. The request came more than two months before Trump asked Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky directly.

Bolton’s book is set for publication next month, but the White House has sought to block publication, claiming it contains classified material, something Bolton’s attorney denies.

Bolton, who is known for taking copious notes, reportedly wrote Trump’s request was made in the presence of acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and Trump personal attorney Rudy Giuliani as well as White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, who is heading Trump’s impeachment defense team.

Bolton said he was directed to call Zelensky to pave the way for a meeting with Giuliani in a 10-minute conversation. Bolton said he never made the call.

Trump is accused of withholding $391 million in military aid to Ukraine in exchange for an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and Biden’s son’s involvement with the Ukraine energy company Burisma. Trump’s defenders have tried to frame the request as the president’s concern over corruption in Ukraine. His lawyers say he did nothing wrong but when asked Thursday when Trump first expressed a desire for the investigations, Trump’s legal team did not answer. Biden announced his candidacy last April 25.

The White House has had a copy of Bolton’s manuscript since Dec. 30 for vetting, and its contents began leaking last Sunday when the Times reported Trump wanted to freeze the Ukraine aid until he got help with the Biden investigation, undercutting key elements of Trump’s impeachment defense. Trump denied that conversation took place. He blocked key administration officials from testifying before the House impeachment investigation. Bolton said earlier this month he was willing to testify before the Senate.

Former National Security Council aide Fiona Hill indicated Bolton said he didn’t want to be involved in “whatever drug deal” was being cooked up and described the former New York mayor as “a hand grenade who’s going to blow everybody up.”

Democrats have been trying to get senators to call Bolton, Mulvaney and several others to testify before voting on impeachment.

Giuliani told the Times the story was untrue, that Mulvaney and Cipollone never were involved in meetings related to Ukraine.