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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

1 hour ago - Health

Government website for free COVID tests launches early

COVID-19 rapid at-home test kits. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

The website where Americans can request free, at-home rapid COVID-19 tests from the government launched Tuesday and is now accepting orders.

Driving the news: The website went live in its beta phase and is operating at a limited capacity a day before its official launch. Every home in the U.S. is eligible for up to four COVID tests, according to the website.

AT&T, Verizon extend 5G delay over airline panic

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

AT&T and Verizon said Tuesday they would delay lighting up its 5G signals near a limited number of airports after renewed opposition from the aviation industry over concerns about signal interference.

Why it matters: The CEOs of leading airlines warned of catastrophic disruption to flights if AT&T and Verizon deployed 5G as planned this week.

Updated 3 hours ago - World

Ukraine crisis: Blinken to visit Kyiv, then meet Russian foreign minister

Photo: Russian Foreign Ministry/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva on Friday, following a trip to Kyiv to reinforce U.S. support for Ukraine in the face of a possible Russian invasion, according to a senior U.S. official.

Why it matters: The meeting with Lavrov suggests a diplomatic resolution to the crisis may still be on the table, despite the collapse of security talks between Russia and the West last week.

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