Word of Giuliani’s call with Maduro eventually reached White House officials who did not know why he was involved, according to one former senior administration official.

Giuliani’s willingness to talk with Maduro in late 2018 flew in the face of the official policy of the White House, which, under national security adviser John Bolton, was then ratcheting up sanctions and taking a harder line against the Venezuelan government.

Around the time of the phone call, Giuliani met with Bolton to discuss the off-the-books plan to ease Maduro from office — a plan Bolton vehemently rejected, two people familiar with the meeting said.