Rudolph W. Giuliani, President Trump's personal lawyer, is encouraging Ukraine to wade further into sensitive political issues in the United States, seeking to push the incoming government in Kyiv to press ahead with investigations that he hopes will benefit Mr. Trump.
Mr. Giuliani said he plans to travel to Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, in the coming days and wants to meet with the nation's president-elect to urge him to pursue inquiries that allies of the White House contend could yield new information about two matters of intense interest to Mr. Trump, The New York Times said.
One is the origin of the special counsel's investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election. The other is the involvement of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.'s son in a gas company owned by a Ukrainian oligarch.
Mr. Giuliani's plans create the remarkable scene of a lawyer for the president of the United States pressing a foreign government to pursue investigations that Mr. Trump's allies hope could help him in his re-election campaign. And it comes after Mr. Trump spent more than half of his term facing questions about whether his 2016 campaign conspired with a foreign power.
"We're not meddling in an election, we're meddling in an investigation, which we have a right to do," Mr. Giuliani said in an interview on Thursday when asked about the parallel to the special counsel's inquiry.
"There's nothing illegal about it," he said. "Somebody could say it's improper. And this isn't foreign policy – I'm asking them to do an investigation that they're doing already and that other people are telling them to stop. And I'm going to give them reasons why they shouldn't stop it because that information will be very, very helpful to my client, and may turn out to be helpful to my government."
Mr. Giuliani's planned trip, which has not been previously reported, is part of a monthslong effort by the former New York mayor and a small group of Trump allies working to build interest in the Ukrainian inquiries. Their motivation is to try to discredit the special counsel's investigation; undermine the case against Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump's imprisoned former campaign chairman; and potentially to damage Mr. Biden, the early front-runner for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
The investigations had been opened by Ukrainian prosecutors serving during the term of the country's current president, Petro O. Poroshenko. He lost his re-election bid last month to Volodymyr Zelensky, a comedian and political newcomer. Mr. Zelensky has said he would like to replace the prosecutor who oversaw some of the matters, Yuriy Lutsenko, who has met multiple times with Mr. Giuliani to discuss the issues.
Mr. Zelensky is set to take office on June 3.
Mr. Giuliani said he had been planning for several weeks to travel to Kyiv to deliver a paid speech to a Jewish group about Middle East policy.
But intermediaries for Mr. Giuliani worked to organize meetings with people who they believed would have insights into the incoming Zelensky administration and the investigations in which Mr. Giuliani was interested. And in recent days, Mr. Giuliani reached out through intermediaries to request a meeting with Mr. Zelensky, he said, adding, "It's not confirmed yet."