However, there is a clear answer to that dilemma: It was both. Giuliani was in Ukraine seeking support for a ridiculous conspiracy theory that went way beyond just lies about Hunter Biden. To make his scheme work, he needed support, and he found that support in the form of corrupt pro-Russian politicians who were being hurt by an ambassador who wouldn’t go along with their schemes. Getting Maria Yovanovitch out benefited both of their agendas.
And Donald Trump agreed.
The whole purpose of Rudy Giuliani going to Ukraine was an effort to create a counter-narrative to the basic truth that Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign involved over 100 contacts with Russian operatives and members of Trump’s staff eagerly shared information with Moscow in return for Russian interference in the election. What Giuliani was seeking was not just dirt Trump could use to fend off Joe Biden in a 2020 race, but support for a ludicrous Q-Anon related claim that Russia hadn’t actually hacked into the email system of the Democratic National Committee. Instead, said this conspiracy theory, it had been hackers in the Ukraine who had just pretended to be Russians so that they could extract emails, hand them over to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, and generate a series of stories played up by the Trump campaign. All at the bequest of—Hillary Clinton.
The full theory involved a supposed hidden server in the Ukraine, a U.S. cyber security company on the take, and a plan that would allow Trump to win the election, only to send him packing when he was connected to Russian agents. Trump has even admitted that he sent Giuliani to Ukraine for this purpose, because he didn’t trust the FBI.
The false claim that Joe Biden has used his position as vice president to threaten Ukraine into ignoring crimes committed by a company connected to his son were barely more than a sideline to Giuliani’s original pursuit. However, those claims were easily even more incredible. Biden’s actions in Ukraine were part of a well-documented series of events in which U.S. allies asked for pressure that specifically removed a prosecutor who had refused to go after the oligarch behind Burisma Holdings. By removing that prosecutor, Biden opened Burisma to a long-deserved investigation and actually placed the company paying his son at greater risk rather than protecting them. And everyone knew it.
Every aspect of Giuliani’s “theories” were both absurd and bizarre. However, Giuliani readily found allies in the form of indicted fraudsters Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, along with attorneys Victoria Toensing and Joseph diGenova, all of whom were working with exiled pro-Russian oligarch Dmytro Firtash. With the help of Firtash’s people, Giuliani made additional connections to the pro-Russian (and pro-corruption) forces inside Ukraine, many of whom were connected to the regime put in power after Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort orchestrated an overthrow of Ukraine’s Western-leaning governments.
And soon enough, all of these people were focused on just one obstacle in their way: U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. Yovanovitch had the unfortunate properties of being knowledgeable, experienced, and honest. Not only was she refusing to let the fraudsters play their fraud games, they made it clear to Giuliani that so long as she was there, they wouldn’t be able to provide the “information” he needed to make his claims against Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden.
What Rudy Giuliani wanted out of Ukraine was people willing to line up and back a series of ready-made conspiracy theories. The price for those lies was getting Yovanovitch out of the way.
On May 1, 2019, The New York Times ran the first in a series of stories breathlessly repeating Giuliani’s claims about the Bidens. Six days later, the fraudsters got paid—Yovanovitch was removed.
The same day that Yovanovitch was dismissed, Bloomberg published showing that even a casual investigation into the claims Giuliani had made to The New York Times showed that the story was completely false. Within a week, they turned up evidence of a real corruption scandal. Only the source of that corruption was Rudy Giuliani. Giuliani connected Ukrainian lawmaker directly with Donald Trump over the phone, so that Trump could share his excitement about setting up Biden. Then the lawmaker provided Giuliani with a letter supposedly written by former Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko. However, the prosecutor’s spokesperson denied he’d written the letter and the claims in the letter were immediately shown to be false.
The scandal in Ukraine is right where it always was—with Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump. Because it looks very much like Giuliani and Trump conspired to remove a U.S. Ambassador at the behest of crooks like Dmytro Firtash so that they could expand their criminal empires. In exchange for removing a honest obstacle to their corruption, Giuliani and Trump took payment in terms of false testimony to support the preposterous theories they had been pushing about Joe Biden.
Exactly what crime that involves is not clear. Warrants suggest that Giuliani was acting as an unregistered agent of Ukraine in lobbying for Yovanovitch’s removal. But he was actually working for indicted Ukrainian oligarchs and a whole collection of ousted pro-Russian official and just plain crooks.
What’s also clear is that Giuliani has been under investigation since 2019. If that investigation was delayed because Trump or Bob Barr was issuing orders preventing the DOJ from moving forward with searches and arrests, that’s a whole other scandal, and a whole other series of crimes.
All of which are likely to include the word “conspiracy.” And that’s not just a theory.