During a 2017 meeting in the Oval Office, President Trump urged then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to help coax the Department of Justice into dropping a criminal case against one of Rudy Giuliani's clients, three people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg News. Three sources who spoke with Bloomberg on condition of anonymity said participants in the meeting were shocked at the request.
Trump allegedly requested Tillerson's help in convincing the DOJ to cease prosecuting Reza Zarrab, 34, an Iranian-Turkish gold trader. He hired the president's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and former Attorney General Michael Mukasey to represent him.
The source with knowledge told ABC News that many top level aides including Tillerson and then-White House chief of staff John Kelly told the president he could not get involved in the matter saying it would be interfering in an ongoing criminal investigation. Prosecutors said he had "close ties" with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and ultimately, Zarrab pleaded guilty and began cooperating.
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He said he'd been speaking with US officials as part of his effort to arrange a swap of Zarrab for Andrew Brunson, an American pastor jailed in Turkey who was later released in 2018. "I was a private lawyer at the time". With this in mind, it's worth emphasizing that if the president urged his secretary of State to interfere with the Justice Department, derailing the prosecution of one of Giuliani's clients - a client who faced serious criminal charges - that would nearly certainly constitute an impeachable offense.
A representative for Tillerson declined to comment when reached by ABC News.
Giuliani told Bloomberg he might've mentioned Zarrab to Trump, but he couldn't say for sure. "Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe at some point I dropped his name in a conversation".
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Rudy Giuliani, an attorney for President Donald Trump, addresses a gathering during a campaign event for Eddie Edwards, who is running for the U.S. Congress, in Portsmouth, N.H., August 1, 2018.
Meanwhile, Trump's relationship to Erodgan has gained renewed attention after he spoke with the authoritarian leader over the weekend and abruptly announced that United States troops would withdraw from northern Syria, clearing the way for a Turkish incursion. Trump's own phone call with Ukraine's President asking him to investigate Biden is central to ongoing impeachment efforts.
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