US Energy Secretary Rick Perry said Friday he “didn’t see a problem” with being asked by President Donald Trump to speak with Rudy Giuliani about matters involving Ukraine.
In an on-air interview on Fox News, Perry defended the President’s recommendation that he speak with Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, and denied that doing so circumvented the State Department.
“As the Governor of Texas, I used people outside of government all the time to get me information,” Perry said. “I respect the State Department, but I happen to know people in the energy industry who are a lot smarter than the State Department folks. I didn’t see a problem with that at all.”
Perry has been subpoenaed for documents by the congressional committees in the impeachment inquiry, and his deadline to respond is Friday. The Texas Republican said he did not know whether he would be complying with that subpoena, saying the decision depends on the recommendation of the Energy Department’s legal team.
“Our general counsel’s taking a look at that right now, and when they send their answer in at the end of the day, and whatever their decision is, that’s what I’ll follow,” Perry said. “I don’t know if that’s a yes or no yet.”
Asked whether he would testify to Congress, Perry repeated that he would follow the advice of the Energy Department’s general counsel.
In May, Perry led the US delegation to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky’s inauguration, where his conversation with the new leader has raised the interest of House Democrats conducting the impeachment inquiry.
Perry, along with US ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland and US Special Envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker, have been dubbed the “three amigos” and assigned by the White House to take the lead on conducting US foreign policy with Ukraine.
All three had conversations with Giuliani in the months before and weeks following Trump’s July 25 phone call with Zelensky in which Trump pressured Zelensky to look into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Giuliani had been pushing unfounded claims about Ukraine’s involvement in meddling in the 2016 election along with dirt concerning the Bidens regarding Ukraine. Trump brought up both subjects on his phone call with Zelensky as the administration was in the midst of holding up military aid to Ukraine.
There is no evidence of wrongdoing by the Bidens.
Concerns raised by a whistleblower in the intelligence community about whether that call was the culmination of improper activity on the part of Trump and the administration prompted the opening of the impeachment inquiry.
In his Friday interview on Fox, Perry repeated his claim that the Bidens’ names did not come up in any of his conversations with Ukrainian officials nor with Trump or his aides. He did admit the idea of “corruption” in Ukraine did come up in his conversations with the President.
“We heard corruption in almost every conversation that we had talking about Ukraine and whether or not President Zelensky was going to come over here,” Perry said. “Because President Trump wasn’t going to send American money to a country that had a history of being corrupt, and he was hammering that. And we hammered that.”
Perry, who informed the President on Thursday he would be resigning his position at the Energy Department soon, told Fox News his departure has “absolutely nothing to do with Ukraine.”