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Democrats Say They Won't Need Giuliani's Testimony To Make Their Case Against Trump

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

When the House impeachment inquiry moves out into the open tomorrow, the public will get to hear directly from key witnesses. Three senior State Department officials are scheduled to publicly testify this week. There is one individual who will not be heard from, although his name will undoubtedly come up. That is the president's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani. NPR justice correspondent Ryan Lucas reports.

RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: For a time this fall, Rudy Giuliani was seemingly everywhere.

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HOWARD KURTZ: And joining us now from New York is a key figure in the Ukraine drama, Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal...

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #1: Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #2: Rudy Giuliani joins us right now. How will...

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #3: Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

LAURA INGRAHAM: Rudy G. joins me now to respond. All right, Rudy.

LUCAS: In one combative appearance after another, Giuliani promoted his debunked allegations against former Vice President Joe Biden and Ukraine. Those allegations were the culmination of a months-long dirt-digging expedition by Giuliani. He was aided in those efforts by two Soviet-born, Florida-based businessmen, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. Giuliani's media blitz came to a halt about a month ago when Parnas and Fruman made headlines of their own.

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JESSICA SCHNEIDER: Tonight, two associates of President Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani indicted on...

LUCAS: Parnas and Fruman were arrested on campaign finance charges. The indictment alleges, among other things, that the two men tried to enlist then-U.S. Congressman Pete Sessions for help removing the then-U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. Nothing in the indictment implicates Giuliani. But like Parnas and Fruman, he had been pushing for Yovanovitch's dismissal, and she was ultimately recalled from her post in late April.

Since Parnas and Fruman's arrest, Giuliani has largely disappeared from public view - no more Sunday news show appearances, no more daily cable news hits. And by the way, he did not respond to a request for comment for this story. Giuliani also has not appeared before House lawmakers. He has refused to comply with a congressional subpoena for testimony and documents, calling the impeachment inquiry a sham.

JIM HIMES: It's pretty clear that Mr. Giuliani was running around Ukraine, communicating with people in politics in Ukraine.

LUCAS: That's Jim Himes, a Democrat and member of the House Intelligence Committee, which has been spearheading the inquiry.

HIMES: Sadly, since Mr. Giuliani is avoiding a congressional - ignoring a congressional subpoena, we may never know the full story of what he said and did in Ukraine.

LUCAS: Himes says Giuliani's refusal to cooperate is unfortunate, but it's not a major hole in the case for impeachment, which he says centers on President Trump's actions.

HIMES: From the standpoint of abuse of power and corruption, which are really the core of the case for impeachment, the facts really aren't in dispute.

LUCAS: Those facts come from officials who have been questioned by Republican and Democratic lawmakers behind closed doors as part of the House investigation. And while the focus is on President Trump's actions, Giuliani's name appears in the testimony transcripts more than 500 times.

The transcripts paint a detailed picture of Giuliani's role in the Ukraine affair and how it was viewed by those responsible for America's foreign policy. It began in early 2019 with what one senior State Department official, George Kent, described as a campaign of slander and lies against the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. Yovanovitch herself testified. NPR's Michele Kelemen reported that that testimony shed light on Giuliani's role.

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MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Her story does show the influence of Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani - that he had in the administration. He was running a sort of side foreign policy on Ukraine that angered a lot of people at the State Department.

LUCAS: The goal of Giuliani's so-called side foreign policy was to push Ukraine to open investigations into Joe Biden and allegations that Democrats colluded with Ukraine in the 2016 election. President Trump pressed for those same investigations in the now-famous July 25 phone call with his Ukrainian counterpart.

Yovanovitch and Kent are both scheduled to testify in public this week. The third official who is to appear is William Taylor, the top American diplomat at the U.S. embassy in Kyiv. In his closed-door testimony, Taylor voiced concerns that the Giuliani-run operation was trying to bend U.S. policy towards Ukraine so that it pursued President Trump's own personal political interests rather than America's national interest.

While Giuliani has managed to sidestep House investigators and their questions, that does not mean he's in the clear. He appears to be under scrutiny from federal investigators in New York. And after declaring for months that he had no need of a lawyer, Giuliani has now hired several attorneys to represent him.

Ryan Lucas, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.