WASHINGTON — Facing withering attacks accusing him of seeking foreign assistance for President Trump’s re-election campaign, Rudolph W. Giuliani announced on Friday night that he had canceled a trip to Kiev in which he planned to push the incoming Ukrainian government to press ahead with investigations that he hoped would benefit Mr. Trump.
Mr. Giuliani, President Trump’s personal lawyer, explained that he felt like he was being “set up,” and he blamed Democrats for trying to “spin” the trip.
“They say I was meddling in the election — ridiculous — but that’s their spin,” he said.
Mr. Giuliani said on Thursday that he had hoped to meet in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, with the nation’s president-elect and urge him to pursue inquiries that could yield new information about two matters of intense interest to Mr. Trump. One is the origin of the special counsel’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. The other is the involvement of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s son in a gas company owned by a Ukrainian oligarch.
The trip raised the specter of a lawyer for Mr. Trump pressing a foreign government to pursue investigations that his allies hope could help him win re-election. And it comes after Mr. Trump has spent more than half of his term facing scrutiny about whether his 2016 campaign conspired with Ukraine’s hostile neighbor, Russia. Mr. Giuliani had planned to leave on Sunday.
After The New York Times published a report about the trip on Thursday, Democrats assailed Mr. Giuliani, accusing him of activity evoking that at the center of the recently concluded special counsel’s investigation.
“Today, Giuliani admitted to seeking political help from a foreign power. Again,” tweeted Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California and the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. He called the plan “immoral, unethical, unpatriotic and, now, standard procedure.”
Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York and the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, told reporters, “We have come to a very sorry state when it is considered O.K. for an American politician, never mind an attorney for the president, to go and seek foreign intervention in American politics.”
On Friday night, Mr. Giuliani rejected that characterization, asserting in a brief interview, “My only purpose was to make sure the investigation continued.”
The change of plans came as advisers were urging the incoming Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, a comedian and political newcomer, not to meet with Mr. Giuliani, according to a person familiar with the conversations.
Mr. Giuliani had requested the meeting with Mr. Zelensky through intermediaries, but it had not been confirmed.
Mr. Zelensky is set to take office on June 3.
The investigations had been opened by Ukrainian prosecutors during the term of the country’s current president, Petro O. Poroshenko. He lost his re-election bid last month to Mr. Zelensky, who has said that he would like to replace the country’s top prosecutor, who oversaw some of the matters.
Mr. Giuliani and other Trump allies had been working behind the scenes with the prosecutor to gather information about the investigations.
But Mr. Giuliani said the requested meeting with Mr. Zelensky was a recent addition to a previously planned trip to Kiev to deliver a paid speech about Middle East policy to a Jewish group.
On Friday, Mr. Giuliani said that group “felt overlooked” by all of the scrutiny on his efforts to try to advance Mr. Trump’s interests in Ukraine. He said they would reschedule his speech for the fall.