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Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort arrives to his arraignment in Manhattan Criminal Court in June. Photo: Yana Paskova/Getty Images

Rudy Giuliani told the Washington Post Wednesday that he consulted with President Trump's imprisoned former campaign chairman Paul Manafort on several occasions via the federal prisoner’s lawyer on a theory concerning Ukraine and the 2016 election.

Why it matters: Giuliani's confirmation to WashPost that he contacted Manafort seeking information on his unsubstantiated theory that Ukraine interfered in the election to help Trump's Democratic presidential rival Hillary Clinton comes after it emerged that the president's personal lawyer is central to the whistleblower complaint that triggered the impeachment inquiry.

  • The whistleblower alleges that Giuliani was part of Trump's foreign interference efforts with Ukraine in 2020.

Our thought bubble, per Axios' Zachary Basu: Giuliani’s correspondence with a convicted felon can be explained by his dedication to rewriting the narrative of the 2016 election and discrediting the Russia investigation.

  • Allegations that Trump pressed Ukraine to investigate political rival Joe Biden and his son that have since ensnared the president in an impeachment inquiry have their roots in Giuliani's broader efforts to bolster the conspiracy that Ukraine interfered in the election on behalf of the Democrats.

Reality check: There is no evidence of a state-sponsored Ukrainian interference campaign on the scale of Russia’s attack. It’s worth noting that Manafort himself pleaded guilty to a laundry list of financial crimes, including bank and tax fraud and hiding a foreign bank account.

The big picture: WashPost notes that Giuliani’s efforts are having an impact on Capitol Hill, where Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), and Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) "have announced their renewal of an inquiry into any coordination between Ukraine and Democratic Party officials." 

What he's saying: Giuliani said he hasn't spoken directly with Manafort for 2 years but needed to contact him via the lawyer in order to look into a theory based on a 2016 New York Times report that Manafort received $12.7 million in undisclosed payments from former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych's political party from 2007 to 2012, as recorded in a secret black ledger.

  • Giuliani wants to "prove" that the ledger was a "falsified pretext for U.S. authorities to reopen a case against Manafort."
  • He told WashPost that he asked Manafort's lawyer, "'Was there really a black book? If there wasn’t, I really need to know. Please tell him I’ve got to know.' ... He came back and said there wasn’t a black book."

Yes, but: WashPost notes that the FBI opened a case into Manafort concerning his work in Ukraine well before the 2016 election and the "special counsel’s office did not introduce the 'black ledger' at Manafort’s trial in Virginia in August 2018, nor did Manafort's defense team mention the document during his trial on tax and financial fraud charges, or try to show that it had been forged."

  • Manafort resigned from the Trump campaign after the report was published.

What they're saying: Democratic National Committee spokesperson Adrienne Watson told WashPost, "The White House has been pushing this narrative to distract from Donald Trump’s gross abuse of power in pressuring a foreign country to interfere in our elections."

Go deeper:

Go deeper

DOJ watchdog to probe whether officials sought to alter election results

Former President Donald Trump and former First Lady Melania Trump exit Air Force One in West Palm Beach, Florida, on Jan. 20. Photo: Alex Edelman/AFP via Getty Images

The Justice Department's inspector general will investigate whether any current or former DOJ officials "engaged in an improper attempt to have DOJ seek to alter the outcome" of the 2020 election, the agency announced Monday.

Driving the news: The investigation comes in the wake of a New York Times report that alleged that Jeffrey Clark, the head of DOJ's civil division, had plotted with President Trump to oust acting Attorney General Jeffery Rosen in a scheme to overturn the election results in Georgia.

1 hour ago - Podcasts

Google's chief health officer Karen DeSalvo on vaccinating America

Google on Monday became the latest Big Tech company to get involved with COVID-19 vaccinations. Not just by doing things like incorporating vaccination sites into its maps, but by helping to turn some of its offices and parking lots into vaccination sites.

Axios Re:Cap goes deeper into what Google is doing, and why now, with Dr. Karen DeSalvo, Google's chief health officer who previously worked at HHS and as health commissioner for New Orleans.

Biden signs order overturning Trump's transgender military ban

Photo: Tom Brenner/Getty Images

President Biden signed an executive order on Monday overturning the Trump administration's ban on transgender Americans serving in the military.

Why it matters: The ban, which allowed the military to bar openly transgender recruits and discharge people for not living as their sex assigned at birth, affected up to 15,000 service members, according to tallies from the National Center for Transgender Equality and Transgender American Veterans Association.

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