WATFORD, England — President Donald Trump on Wednesday dismissed the significance of repeated contacts between his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and phone numbers linked to the White House and its budget office — contacts that were first revealed in the House Intelligence Committee’s lengthy impeachment report.
“So somebody said he made a phone call into the White House. What difference does that make?” Trump asked during a meeting with Italy’s prime minister on the sidelines of a NATO meeting outside of London.
“Is that supposed to be a big deal?'” he added. “I don’t think so.”
The 300-page report is serving as the basis for the next phase of the impeachment inquiry: The House Judiciary Committee’s efforts beginning Wednesday to formally move forward with drafting articles of impeachment against Trump.
The report includes phone records obtained from AT&T and Verizon showing extensive contact between Giuliani and the White House. On April 24, for instance, Giuliani had three calls with a number linked to the Office of Management and Budget, and eight calls with a White House number, the documents show.
Trump on Wednesday Insisted He Knew Nothing About the Calls
OMB said staff had conducted a review and that, as far as they are aware, nobody there has ever spoken to Giuliani. White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney still uses the cellphone he had when he ran the budget office. But a senior White House official said a review of his cellphone records did not turn up any calls between Mulvaney and Giuliani on the days cited in the report. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal records.
Meanwhile, Trump on Wednesday insisted he knew nothing about the calls, even as he maintained they were “no big deal.” He also defended Giuliani as a “very good lawyer,” a “great crime fighter” and “the best mayor in the history of New York City.”
“Rudy is a great gentleman and they’re after him only because he’s done such a good job. He was very effective against Mueller and the Mueller hoax,” Trump said, referring to former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Giuliani has long pushed the debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election and is accused of pressuring Ukrainian officials to investigate the son of Trump’s potential Democratic challenger Joe Biden. Hunter Biden was on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy Defended Nunes on Wednesday
The phone records released Tuesday also show that California Rep. Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, had a series of calls with Giuliani, as well as with Giuliani’s now-indicted associate Lev Parnas. One conversation with Parnas on April 12 lasted eight minutes, according to logs contained in the report.
Nunes told Fox News host Sean Hannity that “it’s possible” he talked to Parnas, but claimed he hadn’t gone through all his phone records.
“I don’t really recall that name. I remember the name now because he has been indicted,’’ Nunes said, adding that any conversation with Parnas would have been appropriate.
“You call my office or you call me or you see me out on the street, I will do my job and do my duty,’’ he said. “I will take your information. I will get it to the appropriate staff person or the appropriate agency in that matter.’’
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., defended Nunes on Wednesday, saying, “Devin can talk to anybody he wants to talk to.” Asked if Nunes should have told House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff about his conversations with people under investigation, McCarthy instead criticized Schiff.
Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise also called Nunes’ inclusion in the House Democrats’ report “very alarming,” asking why that hadn’t been mentioned in the open hearings.