President Donald Trump appears to be trying to distance himself from his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and Giuliani's dealings with Ukraine.
The words "talk to Rudy" became a sort of catch phrase during the impeachment inquiry when some witnesses testified that is what Trump told them to do when they needed clarification on Ukraine.
In a Fox television interview late Tuesday, Trump denied that he directed Giuliani's actions and, when asked what Giuliani was doing in Ukraine, Trump replied, "I don't even know."
"I didn't direct him, but he's a warrior, Rudy's a warrior ... but you have to understand, Rudy has other people that he represents," Trump said, adding that Giuliani has "done work in Ukraine for years."
Trump's comments contradict testimony from U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland.
Testifying before the House Intelligence Committee, Sondland said he and other diplomats were "disappointed by the president's direction that we involve Mr. Giuliani," as Sondland was trying to arrange a White House meeting between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
"My understanding was that the president directed Mr. Giuliani's participation and that Mr. Giuliani was expressing the concerns of the president," Sondland testified.
In a July 25 telephone call that is central to the impeachment inquiry, Trump told Zelenskiy, "Rudy very much knows what's happening and he is a very capable guy. If you could speak to him, that would be great."
Giuliani strongly pushed Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a likely 2020 presidential rival of Trump's, for alleged corruption tied to his son, Hunter Biden's job with the Ukrainian gas company, Burisma, as well as allegations Ukraine interfered in the 2016 U.S. election on behalf of Democrats.
Meanwhile, The New York Times and Washington Post report that while Giuliani was in Ukraine trying to dig up dirt on Biden, he negotiated a $200,000 contract to represent former top Ukrainian prosecutor Yuri Lutsenko, who was helping Giuliani.
The agreement was never signed, but it would have given Lutsenko a direct pipeline to Trump's lawyer and possibly Trump himself, while Giuliani would have benefited financially from a possible smear campaign against Biden.
The reports say a Ukrainian official also approached Giuliani with separate offer to represent the Ukrainian government.
The deal with Lutsenko was never finalized and Giuliani told the Times he also rejected deal with the Ukrainian government because "it was too complicated."
Giuliani has denied having any business dealings in Ukraine, but federal prosecutors are investigating Giuliani and two associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who were helping him look for dirt on Biden.
Parnas and Fruman have been indicted on campaign finance violations for allegedly sending large amounts of money to U.S. politicians. Both have pleaded not guilty.
They are also accused of working on behalf of a Ukrainian official to force the firing of former U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch apparently because she opposed efforts to investigate Biden. Giuliani, himself, has not been charged with any crimes.
Meanwhile, a separate New York Times report says Trump learned about a whistleblower complaint regarding his Zelenskiy phone call before he decided to unfreeze nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine.
The Times cited two people familiar with the matter, saying White House lawyers told Trump about the complaint in late August as they worked to determine whether they were required to send the aid to Congress.
Trump released the aid on Sept. 11. If the Times report is true, it could blow another hole in Trump's assertion that there was no quid pro quo with Ukraine.
The Democrat-led impeachment inquiry is looking into whether Trump withheld the military aid to Ukraine in exchange for President Zelenskiy's public commitment to investigate Biden and alleged Ukrainian election interference.
The intelligence community whistleblower's concern about Trump's July phone call with Zelenskiy, in which Trump asked him for a "favor" and investigate Biden, led to the hearings.
Trump calls the inquiry a hoax, witch hunt, and led the crowd a chant of "Bull ----" at a Tuesday night rally in Florida.
Trump's Republican defenders say no matter what the president did, it does not rise to the level of impeachment.
Trump alleges that when Biden was vice president, he threatened to withhold loan guarantees to Ukraine unless Kyiv fired a prosecutor investigating the Burisma gas company, on whose board Biden's son, Hunter Biden, sat.
No evidence of wrongdoing by the Bidens has ever surfaced. Charges of Ukrainian election interference are based on a debunked conspiracy theory that originated in Russia.