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Giuliani made backchannel call to oust Venezuela’s Maduro: report

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  • Rudy Giuliani, the personal lawyer of President Donald Trump, went against White House foreign policy to ease Venezuela’s socialist President Nicolás Maduro out of office last year, The Washington Post reported.
  • The White House had been pursuing a policy to oust Maduro from power, while Giuliani was trying to negotiate his way out of office.
  • Then-National Security Adviser John Bolton, who had been leading US efforts in Venezuela, had strongly opposed Giuliani’s efforts at the time, and other White House officials were confused by Giuliani’s involvement, The Post said.
  • The report is further evidence of Giuliani’s meddling in US diplomatic efforts that flew in the face of official White House policy. His similar actions in Ukraine have gotten Trump impeached.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories

President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, made backchannel calls to oust Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro from power in late 2018, The Washington Post reported — serving as further evidence of Giuliani’s involvement in shadow US foreign policy that went against official White House diplomatic efforts.

According to The Post, Giuliani and then-Rep. Pete Sessions held a phone call with Maduro in September 2018 in an effort to negotiate a way for him step down. A spokesman for Sessions, who lost his House seat in November 2018, confirmed the call to The Post and The Hill.

Donald Trump Rudy Giuliani

In this Nov. 20, 2016, file photo, then-President-elect Donald Trump, right, and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani pose for photographs as Giuliani arrives at the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster clubhouse in Bedminster, N.J..
AP


Giuliani’s call with Maduro had been a shadow diplomatic effort to ease the socialist Maduro from power, and reopen oil-rich Venezuela to business interests around the world.

Around this time Maduro had been facing mounting calls to resign at the time amid hyperinflation, food and medicine shortages, and a mass exodus of citizens fleeing to neighboring countries.

At the same time, the White House had been operating a more hardline policy against Venezuela, which involved increasing punitive sanctions in an effort to force Maduro from office.

In January 2019, the US recognized opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the country’s interim president, to which Maduro responded by ousting all US diplomats from his country.

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro gestures as he speaks during a news conference in Caracas, Venezuela, September 30, 2019. REUTERS/Manaure Quintero

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro holds a news conference in Caracas
Reuters


‘A nuisance and a distraction’

This back channel to ease, rather than oust, Maduro from office had been supported by multiple US businessmen with financial interests in Venezuela, The Post reported.

However, White House officials had vehemently objected these negotiations, with a former official calling talks like this “a nuisance and a distraction.” The White House has not responded to Business Insider’s request for comment.

According to The Post, Giuliani had met with then-National Security Adviser John Bolton — who had been leading US efforts to oust Maduro — to discuss the shadow plan to negotiate Maduro’s exit, and Bolton had “vehemently rejected” it.

John Bolton

John Bolton
AP Photo/Alex Brandon


An unnamed former senior administration official told The Post that Giuliani’s call had caused confusion among those working on the White House’s Venezuela policy.

“We didn’t know why Rudy was involved at the time,” the former official said.

Another unnamed former White House official told The Post that the administration generally disapproved of backchannel negotiations like Giuliani’s, saying: “We generally did not welcome efforts like this one. It wasn’t consistent with our policy goals. We saw it as a nuisance and a distraction.”

Giuliani

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani delivers a speech on the first day of the Republican National Convention on July 18, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media.
Brooks Kraft/Getty Images


Giuliani’s involvement in behind-the-scenes US foreign-policy work is particularly concerning given his proximity to Trump and vast consulting work around the world.

According to The Post, later in 2018 Giuliani began working for Venezuelan energy tycoon Alejandro Betancourt López, for whom he lobbied the Justice Department to drop its charges of possible money laundering

Giuliani had operated similar backchannel negotiations in Ukraine, where he pressured officials to announce investigations into Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden and undermined then-Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. These actions led to Trump’s impeachment by the House earlier this week.

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