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Trump lawyer Giuliani threatens, then abandons, Ukraine trip

By Jonathan Lemire
The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — Democrats denounced a plan by President Donald Trump’s personal attorney to push Ukraine to open investigations that he hopes could benefit Trump politically, saying it was an overt attempt to recruit foreign help to influence a U.S. election.

But lawyer Rudy Giuliani has scrapped plans to visit Ukraine, citing concerns about who he would be dealing with there.

Giuliani’s plan had seemed poised to create an unprecedented moment — a lawyer for the American president seeking foreign assistance in trying to damage political rivals. To Democrats, it was a blatant evocation of Russia’s meddling on behalf of Trump when he defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016

“The meeting would have accomplished little and may be in the hands of those who might misrepresent it,” Giuliani said Saturday in a statement.

Giuliani had said earlier that he would to travel to Kiev in coming days to urge the government to investigate the origins of special counsel Robert Mueller’s recently concluded probe into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election, and the involvement of former Vice President Joe Biden’s son in a gas company owned by a Ukrainian oligarch.

Joe Biden is the early Democratic front-runner to challenge Trump in the 2020 election. The Biden campaign has denied that Biden or his son, Hunter, did anything improper.

Giuliani said he has concluded that Ukraine’s president-elect is being advised by people who were the “very vocal opponents of President Trump and peculiarly vocal supporters of Hillary Clinton.”

TV star and comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy beat incumbent President Petro Poroshenko in a recent presidential election. Giuliani said he believes that the incoming president is being advised, in particular, by Serhiy Leshchenko, an opposition parliament member who helped uncover the off-the-books payments made to Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

“My purpose was to share information to assist their on-going investigation of Ukrainian officials being used by Americans to gather information to assist Clinton in last election and to alert them to the very real dangers that there are people involved in the investigation … who are attempting to shut it down before it reaches a conclusion,” Giuliani said in a statement.

He said the Ukrainian investigation has the potential to reveal people who originated or propagated “the false claim of collusion” between Russia and the Trump campaign.