NOEL KING, HOST:
President Trump's personal lawyer and close ally Rudy Giuliani is a key figure in an effort by the White House to get Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden. There are a lot of questions, like - what exactly did Giuliani do in Ukraine on President Trump's behalf? House committees want to know. They've issued a subpoena for documents related to his communications with Ukraine. This controversy is kind of closing in around Giuliani. But when Sean Hannity asked him on Fox News last night if he would testify before Congress, he said this.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "HANNITY")
RUDY GIULIANI: Well, I don't know. I'm weighing the alternatives. I'll kind of, like, go through it. I'll get all my evidence together. I'll get my charts. I don't know - if they let me use videotapes and tape recordings that I have.
KING: NPR justice reporter Ryan Lucas has been following this story carefully. He's in the studio. Good morning, Ryan.
RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: Good morning.
KING: So why was Giuliani subpoenaed?
LUCAS: Well, this is a subpoena from the House Intelligence Committee. That, of course, is the committee that's leading the House impeachment inquiry. And what the committee says in its letter to Giuliani is that lawmakers are looking into allegations that he acted as an agent of President Trump in what Democrats call a scheme - a scheme to advance Trump's own political interests by abusing the office of the presidency.
Lawmakers are asking for documents related to Giuliani's communications with Ukrainians. So this is for records right now; it's not for testimony at this point. I asked Giuliani about the subpoena last night. He told me in a text message that lawmakers aren't even making a pretense of fairness in this. And he says of the subpoena that there's, quote, "lots to consider."
KING: OK. OK. How did Rudy Giuliani get involved in all this?
LUCAS: So he's been front and center, pushing these Biden allegations for a long time. He's told me that he first got wind of these allegations about a year ago. Since then, he's met with Ukrainians to, as Giuliani puts it, try to gather evidence that would help his client. And his client, of course, is President Trump. Giuliani says that he represents Trump on a pro bono basis.
A key meeting in Giuliani's efforts took place in early August in Spain. That's where he met with the senior adviser to Ukraine's president. He gave the adviser information about the Biden allegations, Biden's alleged improprieties. It is, of course, important to say that Giuliani's allegations are unsubstantiated. The evidence actually contradicts it.
Giuliani says that this meeting in Spain was facilitated by Kurt Volker. At the time, Volker was the U.S. special representative to Ukraine as part of the State Department. Volker resigned on Friday, and he's actually going to sit down with House investigators this week.
KING: But it brings up a question, which is why would someone like Kurt Volker, who's working for the State Department - or who was - help set up a meeting between the president's personal lawyer and the Ukrainian government in the first place?
LUCAS: That's a good question. And Volker has a long history as an ambassador. He's a former ambassador to NATO. Broadly speaking, Volker's role at State was to help support Ukraine in its democratic reforms. There has been a lot of negative news about Ukraine over the past year or so about corruption there, a bunch of other things. The conservative media here in the United States has kind of latched on to that, and Giuliani has as well. He's been very vocal about his doubts, concerns about Ukraine.
The Ukrainian government actually contacted Volker and asked him to put them in touch with Giuliani. And it's my understanding that Volker facilitated that, in part because it would give the Ukrainians a chance to show Giuliani, on their own, that the new government in Ukraine led by President Zelenskiy has the right priorities, that they're the good guys. Basically, Ukraine could correct the record with Giuliani, who, of course, is close to President Trump.
KING: Yeah. OK. There are these reports that started trickling out yesterday in the news that President Trump asked the prime minister of Australia to help Attorney General William Barr while the Justice Department looks into why the Russian investigation started. Can you just tease out what happened there?
LUCAS: Right. The U.S. attorney in Connecticut, John Durham, has been looking into the origins of the Russia investigation. We've known that for a long time. After the story broke last night, the Justice Department put out a statement saying that it was actually Attorney General Bill Barr who asked the president to contact foreign countries to put Barr and Durham in touch with appropriate officials there as part of this probe.
Now, this is unusual. There are lots of other channels through which such requests can be made, say, the director of national intelligence or the State Department or the Justice Department itself. When the president makes this request, though, it takes it up a notch. And the thing here is that, of course, this raises questions because President Trump has a personal political interest in the outcome of this probe.
KING: Sure. Ryan Lucas, thanks so much.
LUCAS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.