Why Giuliani’s calls with ‘-1’ are likely calls with Trump
The report is vague about whose number it is. It’s simply referred to as an “unidentified” or “unknown” point of contact. But the context of the calls and other clues suggest that it’s probably a reference to Trump — and perhaps the president’s cellphone.
Why that seems likely
A few reasons.
1. In the documented calls, Giuliani spends more time speaking with “-1” than anyone else. According to our analysis, on the nine days documented in the House report, Giuliani spent more time speaking with “-1” than any other contact: 12 calls lasting more than 50 minutes. By contrast, Giuliani made 16 calls to the White House switchboard, speaking for a total of only about 24 minutes.
2. “-1” always calls Giuliani. In each of those 12 documented calls, “-1” contacts Giuliani. That seems unusual; the documented calls between Giuliani and his associate Parnas, for example, include Parnas calling Giuliani about half the time. Same with Giuliani’s calls with Nunes.
The implication is that perhaps the “-1” contact can’t or won’t allow Giuliani to initiate contact with him. Particularly when considering the larger pattern surrounding those calls.
3. “-1” generally calls Giuliani after Giuliani has contacted the White House. There’s a recurring pattern in the call logs: Giuliani contacts the White House, and “-1” calls him a short while later.
One particular example is worth picking out. On Aug. 8, Giuliani texted someone at the White House. An hour later, a flurry of short calls from “-1” or failures to connect, perhaps suggesting someone calling repeatedly and hanging up without leaving a message.
Shortly afterward, Giuliani tries the White House again. He first calls a number at the Office of Management and Budget — possibly looking to be connected to acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, who still serves as OMB director. He then tries a switchboard connected with the White House Situation Room. Then he contacts the main White House switchboard, speaking to someone there for 47 seconds.
Sixteen minutes later, a call back from “-1.”
The implication is clear: Giuliani contacts the White House to get a call from “-1″. And, therefore, that “-1” is someone who can be reached by going through the White House, certainly a relatively small group of people.
4. There are moments when a “-1” call preceded an apparently connected action by Trump. The House report documents a series of calls in late April, just as then-Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch was being recalled from her position after a focused campaign by Giuliani and other Trump allies.
On April 24, Giuliani and the “-1” number spoke for eight minutes (after Giuliani contacted a White House number for 44 seconds). A few hours later, Yovanovitch was recalled.
The next day, they spoke again.
“At 7:14 p.m. Eastern Time on April 25, Mr. Giuliani once again received a call from an unknown ‘-1’ number, which lasted four minutes and 40 seconds,” the report states. “Minutes later, Mr. Giuliani held a brief 36 second call with Sean Hannity, a Fox News opinion host.”
A little over an hour later, Trump called in to Hannity’s show. The two discussed Ukraine, among other things.
The report documents a similar chain on May 10 as Giuliani was publicly exploring a trip to Ukraine to push for investigations sought by Trump. Giuliani and “-1” speak (shortly after Giuliani gets off the phone with a member of Trump’s National Security Council) and Giuliani then calls Parnas. Later that evening, Giuliani indicated that the trip was off.
Why this matters
One might certainly be justified in wondering why it’s worth certifying that “-1” is Trump. After all, Giuliani was Trump’s lawyer; one would expect them to speak on the phone with some regularity. (See point No. 1 above.)
The response to that is: Right. But Trump — and, more frequently, people defending him — has tried to downplay interactions with Giuliani as Giuliani’s role in the campaign to pressure Ukraine has been made more obvious through the impeachment inquiry.
Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland articulated an explicit quid pro quo (in those words) during his testimony, linking that back to Giuliani’s efforts. If Giuliani and Trump were demonstrably in regular communication, it becomes significantly harder for Trump and his allies to argue that he was not apprised of what Giuliani was doing and how he was doing it.
What’s interesting about the calls detailed in the House report, really, is how limited in scale they are: Only a handful of days are included, but while there are numerous contacts on those days, it still offers only a small glimpse of what was happening behind the scenes.
Making the number of connections between Giuliani and “-1” that much more important.