Trump pressed Tillerson to assist Giuliani client facing DOJ charges

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and U.S. President Donald Trump listen as Republicans take turns speaking to the media at Camp David

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and U.S. President Donald Trump listen as Republicans take turns speaking to the media at Camp David

President Donald Trump urged then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to convince the Department of Justice to drop charges against a client of Rudy Giuliani during a meeting in the Oval Office in 2017, Bloomberg reported Thursday.

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.

Giuliani's client was an Iranian-Turkish gold trader named Reza Zarrab, who was being prosecuted by a federal court in NY, charged with dodging US sanctions against Iran's nuclear program. In addition to Giuliani, Zarrab was also being represented by former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey. Asked by the President whether the deal was one he could support, Tillerson said he couldn't intervene, citing the ongoing Justice Department court case.

"Suppose I did talk to Trump about it. I was a private lawyer at the time", Giuliani told Bloomberg.

'Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe at some point I dropped his name in a conversation.

He said he'd been speaking with USA 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.

The White House, Kelly and Tillerson all declined to comment on the record to Bloomberg. Zarrab testified against the head of worldwide banking at Turkey's state-owned Halkbank, and said Erdogan backed their laundering effort.

Meanwhile, Trump's relationship to Erodgan has gained renewed attention after he spoke with the authoritarian leader over the weekend and abruptly announced that USA troops would withdraw from northern Syria, clearing the way for a Turkish incursion.

The issues surrounding Ukraine came to a head after a whistleblower filed a complaint regarding a July 25 phone call that Trump had with newly elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in which Trump pushed Zelenskiy to look into the Bidens and offered the assistance of Giuliani and Attorney General Bill Barr.

The revelation comes as Democrats probe Trump's ties with Giuliani, who played a central role in efforts to secure dirt on Joe Biden from Ukraine.

It also comes as the president faces sharp bipartisan criticism over his abrupt decision on Sunday to withdraw USA troops from northern Syria. The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

Sanctions against Turkey are already on the table.

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