First On CNN: Trump Told Rick Perry And State Department Officials To Talk To Giuliani About Ukraine First

(CNN) – The president of the United States, Donald Trump, ordered the Secretary of Energy, Rick Perry, and two senior State Department officials to speak with his private lawyer Rudy Giuliani when the president of Ukraine sought to meet with Trump, in a clear action to circumvent the official channels, according to two sources familiar with the conversation.

Trump believed there was still rampant corruption in Ukraine and said that if President Volodymyr Zelensky wanted to meet him, Giuliani would have to be the first to be convinced, a source said.

"If they can convince Rudy, they can convince the president," said a person familiar with the meeting.

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Trump's drive for Giuliani to be the guardian of access to him is more direct than what one of the meeting participants previously revealed in his testimony before the House of Representatives last week. It also demonstrates how important Giuliani was in negotiating access to the president regarding Ukraine's policy and in transmitting messages to other administration officials.

CNN has contacted the White House for comments.

A key accusation in the reporting of the informant that has provoked the investigation of political trial regarding President Trump's negotiations with Ukraine is that Giuliani, a private citizen, had been presenting a different US policy to Ukraine than those of diplomats.

At the meeting on May 23, Perry, the US ambassador. UU. in the Union, European Gordon Sondland, and Kurt Volker, then special representative of the State Department in Ukraine, gave Trump a report after returning from Zelensky's inauguration.

His goal was to tell Trump that they had a favorable impression of Zelensky and his government, and that he was a reformer whom Trump should trust and whom he should relate to, according to three sources familiar with the meeting.

They hoped to arrange a meeting between Trump and Zelensky, sources said. They believed that, with Zelensky, Ukraine was a more reliable ally than previous Ukrainian regimes, and that a meeting between the two could demonstrate to the Russian government that the United States embraced a free Ukraine, according to two sources.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was in Washington on May 23 but did not attend the meeting with Trump.

Perry had chaired the delegation that attended Zelensky's inauguration and was a central figure in the May meeting with Trump.

It became clear to Trump administration officials, the sources said, that they would have to deal with Giuliani.

Volker hinted last week, speaking before the House of Representatives, how central Giuliani was in the president's foreign policy approach to Ukraine.

"The president was very skeptical," Volker told the House of Representatives commissions, describing what had happened when he, Sondland and Perry spoke with Trump. "In the course of that conversation, he referred to conversations with Mayor Giuliani."

"He was clearly receiving other information from other sources, including Mayor Giuliani, who was more negative, which made him maintain this negative view" of a corrupt Ukraine, Volker added.

US officials set out to correct the supply of information that reached the president while realizing that they would have to work with Giuliani, and around him, according to sources.

Two months later, during an inter-agency meeting, the Office of Administration and Budget announced that it would review whether Ukraine should receive $ 400 million in US assistance that had been reserved by Congress. The question about help that arose later became an important topic of conversation between Sondland, Volker and others.

Perry acknowledged speaking with Giuliani, according to a spokesman for the Department of Energy. The spokesman did not comment on the meeting itself or on the content of the talks with Giuliani.

When asked if he had ever talked to Perry about Ukraine, Giuliani responded by rejecting the question.

"Did Henry Kissinger ever call me to talk about Ukraine?" Giuliani wrote to CNN on Tuesday. "What about Colin Powell?"

He then said that any information about his possible conversations with Perry would be privileged. He did not explain why.

Michael Warren, René Marsh and Jeremy Diamond of CNN contributed to this report.

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