The infamous call in which former president Donald Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to do him a “favor” and investigate Hunter Biden and the origins of the Russia probe took place on July 25, 2019, and eventually led to the former president’s first impeachment. But the pressure campaign against the Ukrainians started just three days earlier, when Rudy Giuliani, then the president’s personal lawyer, was on a call with a top Zelensky aide asking him to tell the Ukrainian leader to “just let these investigations go forward.”
The call between Giuliani and Andriy Yermak, then Zelensky’s top foreign policy advisor and currently his chief of staff, happened on July 22, 2019. Details of the Giuliani–Yermak call were first reported by Time in February. But today, BuzzFeed News is publishing the transcript for the first time.
The call has gained new relevance since federal authorities searched Giuliani’s New York City apartment and office and seized his electronic devices early Wednesday morning, which was first reported by the New York Times. According to the Times and other reports, the FBI’s investigation into the former New York City mayor centers on his business activities in Ukraine and ties to its powerful oligarchs.
It’s unclear whether Giuliani’s call with Yermak has factored into the US authorities’ probe, but it provides a glimpse into the former federal prosecutor’s interactions with the Ukrainian side, in his own words.
During the call, Giuliani referenced the politically motivated investigations into Joe Biden’s son Hunter and the unfounded allegations that Ukraine had interfered in the 2016 US presidential election, which he hoped would be led by a new prosecutor general appointed by Zelensky.
“I have no interest in anybody not telling the truth or exaggerating,” Giuliani continued, according to a transcript of the 39-minute call. “All we need from the president [Zelensky] is to say: ‘I’m gonna put an honest prosecutor in charge, he’s gonna investigate and dig up the evidence that presently exists, and is there any other evidence about involvement of the 2016 election […] and then the Biden thing has to be run out.’”
Over and over, Trump’s personal lawyer pressed Yermak to urge Zelensky to make a public statement on the matter.
“If [Zelensky] could make some statement at the right time […] that would clear the air really well. And I think it would make it possible for me to come and make it possible, I think, for me to talk to the president [Trump] to see what I can do about making sure that whatever misunderstandings are put aside,” Giuliani said. “And maybe even, I kinda think that this could be a good thing for having a much better relationship where we really understand each other.”
Giuliani’s demands shocked Igor Novikov, who served as an adviser to Zelensky during his first year in office and was listening in on the call. Novikov provided BuzzFeed News with the transcript.
“I was dumbstruck. My expectation was that this would be a 'hello, nice to meet you' kind of call, and instead I was witnessing Rudy dishing out crazy conspiracies and Yermak agreeing with them,” Novikov said. “That was the exact moment when I realized that we were in big trouble.”
Novikov said that besides himself, Giuliani and Yermak, former US special envoy for Ukraine Kurt Volker was also on the call. Yermak did not immediately respond to requests for comment; Volker said he had nothing to add to what was in his public testimony Text messages unearthed during the first Trump impeachment inquiry show that Volker arranged the call. “Orchestrated a great phone call w Rudy and Yermak. They are going to get together when Rudy goes to Madrid in a couple of weeks,” Volker wrote to then–US Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland the same day as the call.
Ukrainian and US sources familiar with the Giuliani call, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the document, confirmed its authenticity to BuzzFeed News.
Neither Giuliani nor Robert Costello, his lawyer, could be reached for comment. In a statement published on his website Wednesday, Giuliani denied any wrongdoing and called the searches unnecessary because he had twice offered to answer prosecutors’ questions. In an interview with Fox News host Tucker Carlson on Thursday, he called the warrant “illegal” and “unconstitutional.”
Below is the transcript, which was created by Ukrainian officials, of Giuliani’s call with Yermak. It has not been edited or reformatted and is presented here exactly as it was provided to BuzzFeed News.