Trump officials dispute some Giuliani call logs in bid to weaken Democrats' case for impeachment

President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani has given different answers publicly about whether he spoke with anyone at the budget office. PHOTO: NYTIMES

WASHINGTON (NYTIMES) - Trump administration officials, seeking to weaken Democrats' case for impeachment, disputed on Thursday (Dec 5) some of the details in the House Intelligence Committee's report about calls between President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and White House aides.

As part of its portrait of Mr Trump's campaign of pressure on Ukraine, the committee's report released this week listed several calls between Mr Giuliani and White House phone numbers, including one "associated with" the White House's Office of Management and Budget, cited in the report simply as "OMB number".

Such calls suggested contact between Mr Giuliani and key officials at significant moments during Mr Trump's dealings with Ukraine.

The budget office was involved in the administration's freeze on US$391 million (S$532 million) in security aid for Ukraine, a key lever in the President's pressure campaign.

But the phone number is a generic White House switchboard number beginning with "395", people familiar with the phone records said.

While government directories list it as associated with the budget office, they also show the number as associated with offices in other parts of the White House, including the upper floors of the West Wing and the National Security Council.

A review of budget office call logs showed that no one spoke with Mr Giuliani around the times of the calls in April and August, an OMB official said.

Mr Giuliani did not speak with Mr Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff and director of the budget office, whose name has come up in testimony about the aid freeze, a White House official said.

Still, administration officials have not contested the broader assertion that the impeachment report made with the call records: that Mr Giuliani was in close contact with the White House as he carried out a shadow Ukraine policy pressing its new president to announce investigations that could benefit Mr Trump politically.

Asked about the call labelling in the impeachment report, a senior Intelligence Committee official said the phone numbers appeared to be associated with the budget office based on public government directories.

The committee was still investigating the call records, including those identified in the report as connected to the budget office, said the official, who like others was not authorised to speak publicly.

The committee issued subpoenas to the White House and Mr Giuliani asking for records that the official said would "clarify" who at the White House spoke with him. But both the White House and Mr Giuliani defied those demands.

Mr Giuliani has given different answers publicly about whether he spoke with anyone at the budget office.

On Tuesday, he told The New York Times that he had nothing to do with the administration's decision to withhold aid from Ukraine, which is fighting a war against Russian-backed forces in its east, and that his conversations with officials at the budget office related to other issues.

"I never discussed military assistance," he said. "I am expert on so many things it could have been some very esoteric subject."

But on Wednesday, he told CNN that he does not "remember calling OMB and not about military aid... never knew anything about it".

Mr Giuliani did not respond to a message seeking comment on Thursday.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.