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Giuliani says he has "no idea" about efforts to track ex-Ukraine ambassador

Giuliani speaks out on newly released docs
Giuliani speaks out on newly released docs 04:29

Washington — President Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani said he has "no idea" about apparent efforts to track the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine and continued to defend his work in the country on behalf of the president.

House Democrats on Tuesday released portions of conversations provided by Lev Parnas, Giuliani's former business associate who is under federal indictment on campaign finance charges. The documents include exchanges between Parnas and a third man that feature cryptic references to the location of Marie Yovanovitch, the ambassador at the time.

In a lengthy conversation with CBS News on Wednesday, Giuliani denied having knowledge of any efforts to keep tabs on Yovanovitch, who was abruptly recalled from her post amid fears for her safety, according to her earlier congressional testimony.

"I have no idea about allegations of him tracking her," the former New York mayor said. 

The documents released Tuesday include texts Parnas exchanged with Robert F. Hyde, a major Republican donor and little-known congressional candidate. Hyde's messages suggested he was in touch with someone monitoring Yovanovitch's movements who "will let me know when she's on the move."

"She's talked to three people. Her phone is off. Her computer is off," Hyde said in one. In another, he referenced having "a person inside," and later wrote that "you can do anything in Ukraine with money."

Yovanovitch's attorney called the messages "disturbing" on Tuesday and called for an investigation. On Twitter, Hyde denied any ill intent and said he and a friend were "playing with" Parnas, who he called "some dweeb ... that we met a few times."

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel nonetheless demanded details from the State Department on Wednesday about what he called an "unprecedented threat" to Yovanovitch, announcing his committee would open an investigation.

Trump Impeachment
Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Friday, November 15, 2019, on Capitol Hill. Jacquelyn Martin / AP

In his conversation with CBS News, Giuliani also defended his efforts to secure a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. In a previously undisclosed letter from Giuliani to Zelensky that was included in the Parnas documents, Giuliani wrote that he was seeking a meeting with the president's "knowledge and consent."

"I was acting as a private lawyer for the president to gather exculpatory evidence and this never involved attempting to dig up dirt on any political opponent, but rather to gather evidence that would obviously be very helpful to [the president's] defense to Mueller, and now impeachment," Giuliani told CBS News. "This all involved 2016, not 2020."

The former mayor said he is willing to testify in the president's imminent impeachment trial but argued Republicans should dismiss the case outright.

"I am a potential witness in the Senate trial for either side. And of course I would testify, although I believe a proper disposition of this case is a motion to dismiss for failure to state an impeachable offense, similar to the kind of motion that would be made in any other trial," he told CBS News.

He also questioned the authenticity of handwritten notes by Parnas included in the documents he provided to Congress, one of which includes a reference to the Ukrainian president and the "Biden case."

"I don't know what his notes reflect. It's a piece of paper that is undated. It could have been written recently to be self-serving, or written then," Giuliani told CBS News. 

Text messages from Parnas to Giuliani included discussion about setting up a meeting with Zelensky. In one, Parnas tells the former New York mayor he planned to travel to Vienna and was "trying to get us mr Z."

Giuliani on Wednesday suggested Parnas was receiving bad legal advice and accused him of lying in a bid to avoid prison time by cooperating with House Democrats.

"I think it's obvious now these words don't come from Parnas but from his lawyer," Giuliani said. "His lawyer seems to be leading him down the Michael Cohen road."

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