President Trump urged then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to help convince the Justice Department to drop a criminal case against Iranian-Turkish trader Reza Zarrab—then a client of Rudy Giuliani—in a 2017 Oval Office meeting, according to Bloomberg. Tillerson reportedly refused, saying the move would amount to interference in an active investigation. He is also said to have emphasized to then-Chief of Staff John Kelly in a separate conversation that the request to the DOJ would be illegal. At the time, Zarrab was being prosecuted by the feds for evading U.S. sanctions against Iran’s nuclear program. Trump's current personal attorney, Giuliani, and ex-Attorney General Michael Mukasey were hired to represent Zarrab in the case.
Giuliani initially denied ever mentioning Zarrab's case to Trump, but later backtracked, according to the report. “Suppose I did talk to Trump about it—so what? 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 then suggested that perhaps one of Trump's staff spoke to him about the Zarrab case when he was trying to arrange a swap of Zarrab for American pastor Andrew Brunson—who was jailed in Turkey but released last year. Giuliani also said he discussed the Zarrab case with State Department officials, but did not say if he spoke to Tillerson about the matter. The White House, along with representatives for Kelly and Tillerson, all declined to comment.