He was on the cover of Time Magazine. He was America’s Mayor. Rudy Giuliani won national recognition for steering New York through the dark days after the September 11 attacks, and before that he had been United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, from 1983 to 1989, with a reputation as the ultimate hard-charging prosecutor who took on organized crime and corrupt politicians. He sent mob bosses to prison. Yes, he was an arrogant jerk, but he had his moments. And then they were over. He ran for president in 2008 but won only one delegate from one state, Florida, in the Republican primaries. September 11, 2001, had been too long ago. No one wanted to hear about that, not that year. There were other issues. Eight years of George Bush had been a disaster, ending with the sudden collapse of the entire economy. Rudy has nothing to say about that. That was John McCain’s year, which turned into Barack Obama’s year. Rudy was over. Rudy still is.
He never believed that. He found a way to still matter. He became Donald Trump’s secret weapon. He managed to fix things for this new president behind the scenes, and, in public, to sneer at those who questioned Trump on anything. He was still an arrogant jerk, but now he was the president’s personal lawyer, and no one really knew what that meant or what he was doing. Trump liked it that way, and so did Rudy Giuliani. Keep ‘em guessing!
No one is guessing anymore. He’s in real trouble now. The Washington Post reports this:
The FBI warned Rudolph W. Giuliani in late 2019 that he was the target of a Russian influence operation aimed at circulating falsehoods intended to damage President Biden politically ahead of last year’s election, according to people familiar with the matter.
The warning was part of an extensive effort by the bureau to alert members of Congress and at least one conservative media outlet, One America News, that they faced a risk of being used to further Russia’s attempt to influence the election’s outcome, said several current and former U.S. officials. All spoke on the condition of anonymity because the matter remains highly sensitive.
The bad guys are trying to use you. Rudy shrugged that off:
Giuliani received the FBI’s warning while deeply involved with former president Donald Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign and related activities in Ukraine to surface unflattering or incriminating information about the Biden family. The revelation comes as the FBI this week seized Giuliani’s cellphone and other electronic devices as part of a long-running criminal investigation into whether the onetime New York mayor and personal attorney for Trump acted as an unregistered foreign agent.
Was he working for the Russians, for Putin, through Putin’s Ukrainian people? And was Trump fine with that? And is Putin laughing his ass off right now, because this worked? Rudy looks rather guilty here:
The warning, made by counterintelligence agents, was separate from the Justice Department’s ongoing criminal probe, but it reflects a broader concern by U.S. intelligence and federal investigators that Giuliani – among other influential Americans and U.S. institutions – was being manipulated by the Russian government to promote its interests and that he appears to have brazenly disregarded such fears.
He just didn’t care:
Despite the alert, Giuliani went forward in December 2019 with a planned trip to Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, where he met with a Ukrainian lawmaker whom the U.S. government later labeled “an active Russian agent” and sanctioned on grounds he was running an “influence campaign” against Biden. That operation, officials said, involved Ukrainian officials and political consultants who the U.S. intelligence community has since concluded were acting as Russian proxies not only to smear Biden and derail his candidacy but also to curtail U.S. support for Ukraine.
But he wasn’t Putin’s only useful idiot:
The FBI last summer also gave what is known as a defensive briefing to Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who ahead of the election used his perch as chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee to investigate Biden’s dealings with Ukraine while he was vice president and his son Hunter Biden held a lucrative seat on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.
Ron Johnson blew off the warning too. The stuff he was getting on Biden was too juicy to worry about its source, but it was Rudy who got stung:
Giuliani’s electronic devices were seized by authorities Wednesday in searches of his Manhattan home and office as part of the federal investigation into whether he acted as an unregistered foreign agent for Ukraine.
The probe centers on Giuliani’s interactions with Ukrainian figures ahead of November’s election, as he sought information that might undermine Joe Biden and lobbied for the ouster of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine while also pressing Ukrainian officials to announce an inquiry into Biden. Trump abruptly removed the ambassador in May 2019, but Ukraine did not launch an investigation into the Bidens.
That was a bummer. The Ukrainians wanted the woman gone. Putin wanted that woman gone. Trump quicky got rid of her – and Ukraine still did not launch an investigation into the Bidens. Trump was angry, but Rudy was left holding the bag:
Giuliani, a former Manhattan U.S. attorney, has emphatically denied any wrongdoing, and his attorney on Wednesday accused federal investigators of ignoring “clear evidence” of what he alleged was Hunter Biden’s “failure to register as a foreign agent” and the Biden family taking “millions in bribes to sell Biden’s public offices.”
But that’s not the issue. There’s this:
On his trip to Kyiv, Giuliani met with Andriy Derkach, a politician sanctioned by the United States in September and accused by the Treasury Department of having been an active Russian agent “for over a decade” and maintaining “close connections with Russian intelligence services.” Derkach, who attended a KGB academy in Moscow, has denied involvement with any foreign intelligence agency and any illegal activities.
In late 2019, before Giuliani’s trip to Kyiv, U.S. intelligence agencies warned the Trump White House that Giuliani was the target of a Russian influence operation. Officials became concerned after obtaining evidence, including communications intercepts, that showed Giuliani was interacting with people tied to Russian intelligence. The warnings led then-national security adviser Robert C. O’Brien to caution Trump that any information Giuliani brought back from Ukraine should be considered contaminated by Russia.
Despite the FBI warning, Giuliani met with Derkach again in New York in February 2020 when he hosted Derkach on a podcast. In the podcast, Derkach aired false allegations that billions of dollars in U.S. aid to Ukraine were misused or went missing while Joe Biden was handling the Obama administration’s Ukraine portfolio.
That was nonsense. Derkach made that up. Almost all of the information Giuliani brought back from Ukraine seems to have been Russian nonsense, and now it can be labeled as nonsense:
Since Biden’s victory, the National Intelligence Council, an analytic arm of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, has concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin and other senior officials in Moscow sought to influence the 2020 election. They did so by spreading misleading information about Biden through prominent individuals, “including some” who were “close to former President Trump,” according to an ODNI report issued in March.
Putin targeted people close to Trump in bid to influence 2020 election, U.S. intelligence says
The report did not identify the individuals by name, but several current and former officials confirmed at the time that Giuliani was among them. The primary narrative that the Kremlin sought to promote – alleging corrupt ties between the Bidens and Ukraine – dated back to at least 2014, the intelligence report said.
To distance themselves from the disinformation, the Russian spy services relied on Ukrainian individuals including Derkach, the report said. Derkach and others “sought to use prominent U.S. persons and media conduits to launder their narratives to U.S. officials and audiences,” the report stated.
That works. Consider the senator from Wisconsin:
Johnson has said he never met or spoke with Derkach. But he and his staff met with another Ukrainian national, former diplomat Andriy Telizhenko, who pushed the unfounded allegation that it was Ukraine rather than Russia that interfered in the 2016 U.S. election. Johnson has not discussed the meeting publicly.
There’s massive detailed published proof of what Russian did in the 2016 election, with specific names and dates, in the Mueller Report. Telizhenko told Johnson that’s just not so. It was the Ukrainians, the ones who had tossed out Putin’s people a few years earlier. Trump heard the same thing. Putin is smiling.
And that Yovanovitch woman is gone. The New York Times adds detail to that:
Two years ago, Rudolph W. Giuliani finally got one thing he had been seeking in Ukraine: The Trump administration removed the U.S. ambassador there, a woman Mr. Giuliani believed had been obstructing his efforts to dig up dirt on the Biden family.
It was a Pyrrhic victory. Mr. Giuliani’s push to oust the ambassador, Marie L. Yovanovitch, not only became a focus of President Donald J. Trump’s first impeachment trial, but it has now landed Mr. Giuliani in the cross hairs of a federal criminal investigation into whether he broke lobbying laws, according to people with knowledge of the matter.
The long-running inquiry reached a turning point this week when F.B.I. agents seized telephones and computers from Mr. Giuliani’s home and office in Manhattan, the people said. At least one of the warrants was seeking evidence related to Ms. Yovanovitch and her role as ambassador, the people said.
In particular, the federal authorities were expected to scour the electronic devices for communications between Mr. Giuliani and Trump administration officials about the ambassador before she was recalled in April 2019, one of the people added.
The warrant also sought his communications with Ukrainian officials who had butted heads with Ms. Yovanovitch, including some of the same people who at the time were helping Mr. Giuliani seek damaging information about President Biden, who was then a candidate, and his family, the people said.
This is trouble:
At issue for investigators is a key question: Did Mr. Giuliani go after Ms. Yovanovitch solely on behalf of Mr. Trump, who was his client at the time? Or was he also doing so on behalf of the Ukrainian officials, who wanted her removed for their own reasons?
It is a violation of federal law to lobby the United States government on behalf of foreign officials without registering with the Justice Department, and Mr. Giuliani never did so.
Even if the Ukrainians did not pay Mr. Giuliani, prosecutors could pursue the theory that they provided assistance by collecting information on the Bidens in exchange for her removal.
While ambassador, Ms. Yovanovitch had taken aim at corruption in Ukraine, earning her quite a few enemies.
And now her enemies had Rudy:
The investigation has zeroed in on one of her opponents, Yuriy Lutsenko, the top prosecutor in Ukraine at the time, the people said. At least one of the search warrants for Mr. Giuliani’s devices mentioned Mr. Lutsenko and some of his associates, including one who helped introduce him to Mr. Giuliani.
The relationship had the potential to become symbiotic.
Mr. Lutsenko wanted Ms. Yovanovitch removed, and as the personal lawyer to the president, Mr. Giuliani was positioned to help. Mr. Giuliani wanted negative information about the Bidens, and as the top prosecutor in Ukraine, Mr. Lutsenko would have had the authority to announce an investigation into Hunter Biden’s dealings with the energy company. Mr. Giuliani also saw Ms. Yovanovitch as insufficiently loyal to the president, and as an impediment to the investigations.
And now there was a way for everyone to win:
Mr. Lutsenko hinted at a potential quid pro quo in text messages that became public during the impeachment trial. In March 2019, Mr. Lutsenko wrote in a Russian language text message to Mr. Parnas that he had found evidence that could be damaging to the Bidens. Then he added, “And you can’t even bring down one idiot,” in an apparent reference to Ms. Yovanovitch, followed by a frowny-face emoji.
Around that same time, Mr. Giuliani was in negotiations to also represent Mr. Lutsenko or his agency. Draft retainer agreements called for Mr. Giuliani to receive hundreds of thousands of dollars to help the Ukrainian government recover money it believed had been stolen and stashed overseas.
Mr. Giuliani signed one of the retainer agreements, but he said he ultimately did not take on the work, because his representation of Mr. Trump at the same time could constitute a conflict of interest.
He finally knew better, but it was too late:
When Ms. Yovanovitch testified during Mr. Trump’s impeachment hearings in late 2019, she told lawmakers that she had only minimal contact with Mr. Giuliani during her tenure as ambassador.
“I do not know Mr. Giuliani’s motives for attacking me,” she said. “But individuals who have been named in the press who have contact with Mr. Giuliani may well have believed that their personal and financial ambitions were stymied by our anti-corruption policy in Ukraine.”
Giuliani is in trouble, and that provoked this:
Donald Trump’s former longtime lawyer who is serving out a sentence for an array of crimes didn’t mince words Thursday when reacting to news that the former president’s current lawyer Rudy Giuliani was facing mounting legal troubles of his own.
“Two things came straight to mind,” Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota in an interview. “The first is that I’m no longer the only one. And two, my parents always told me it’s not nice to gloat, but, Rudy, I told you so. I told you so!”
Cohen was responding to the FBI executing search warrants on Giuliani’s home and office on Wednesday and seizing his electronic devices as well as a computer belonging to his personal assistant, Jo Ann Zafonte. Zafonte was served with a grand-jury subpoena, and The New York Times reported that federal agents also raided the Washington, DC, home of Victoria Toensing, a fellow lawyer and associate of Giuliani’s.
He knows how this may play out:
On Thursday, Cohen recalled what it was like when the FBI raided his properties in 2018, a few months before he struck a plea deal. He said that investigators sifted through millions of documents on his electronic devices and that the investigation expanded as a result. If that happens in Rudy’s case, Cohen said, the investigation could start touching on others in Trump’s close circle.
“What happens is, they may be starting the investigation looking at things like the Ukrainian conversations between himself, Lev Parnas, and others,” Cohen said. “You may end up finding that Jared Kushner was involved, that Don Jr., or a host of other individuals in Trump’s orbit. And what happens then is that the Southern District, they end up expanding the probe.”
And then it’s over for this guy and his flaws:
Cohen accused Giuliani of having “been shady for a long time” and said the investigation into whether he broke foreign-lobbying laws could expand “into other areas that Rudy doesn’t even possibly remember.”
He concluded, bluntly: “We have no idea how expansive this investigation is going to ultimately reveal itself because Rudy’s an idiot. And that’s the problem. Rudy drinks too much, Rudy behaves in such an erratic manner that who knows what’s on those telephones or what’s on his computers.”
Now add this:
Camerota then asked Cohen what he thought Giuliani might do if prosecutors started tightening the screws on him and whether he would “flip” and offer up information about Trump in exchange for leniency.
Cohen said that before Trump became president, he and Giuliani did not like each other. “So do I think Rudy will give up Donald in a heartbeat? Absolutely,” he said. “He certainly doesn’t want to follow my path down into a 36-month sentence for something as innocuous as a hush-money payment, right, to a porn star… at the direction and for the benefit of Donald J. Trump.”
Okay. Now it’s time to worry:
A Wednesday raid by federal agents of an apartment and office belonging to former New York City mayor and one-time Donald Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani has left allies of the former President feeling uneasy about what could come next, according to sources close to Trump.
“This was a show of force that sent a strong message to a lot of people in Trump’s world that other things may be coming down the pipeline,” one Trump adviser told CNN…
According to the Trump adviser, the raid ignited a sense of fear inside the former President’s orbit that Justice Department officials may be more willing to pursue investigations of the 45th president or his inner circle than many Trump allies had previously believed.
And it’s time for Trump to worry too:
The raid has also raised the question of whether Giuliani’s seemingly steadfast loyalty to Trump could withstand the weight of potential criminal charges. Giuliani has not been charged and has denied any wrongdoing.
“Even the most loyal people have their breaking point,” said a person close to the former President. The Trump adviser separately added that a potential shift in Giuliani’s fealty to his former client “wouldn’t shock me at all.”
“I think we’ve seen some more surprising instances of things like that happening, especially with Michael Cohen,” the person close to Trump said.
So, expect that:
Longtime Trump fixer Michael Cohen, who once said he would be willing to “take a bullet” for his former boss, became a self-avowed Trump critic in 2018 after he flipped on the then-President following an FBI raid of his own home, office and hotel room. The raid was part of a probe led by the US Attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York, which later resulted in charges of tax fraud, false statements to a bank and campaign finance violations that Cohen pleaded guilty to.
During an appearance on CNN earlier this week, Cohen himself speculated that Giuliani could “give up Donald in a heartbeat” if faced with an indictment.
“Prior to Donald becoming president, Rudy didn’t like Donald and Donald didn’t like Rudy,” Cohen claimed. “He certainly doesn’t want to follow my path down into a 36-month sentence.”
Prior to Donald Trump becoming president, none of this would have happened. And now that Donald Trump is gone, none of this will happen again. Kimberly Wehle, a professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law, and former assistant United States attorney and associate independent counsel in the Whitewater investigation, explains why. It’s the new guy:
Back in October 2019, reports emerged that the Department of Justice was criminally investigating Rudy Giuliani, the personal lawyer and de facto personal diplomat to former President Trump. That news feels old these days, buried amid the debris of constitutional and legal horrors left littering the landscape after the Trumpian era. But with Attorney General Merrick Garland now at the helm of DOJ, the story – and the department – have roared back to life.
Attorney General William Barr, Trump’s guy, stopped any of the Giuliani search warrants from being executed – request denied, over and over – but things have changed:
The attorney general is not fooling around. Prior to serving on the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, Garland spearheaded the DOJ investigation into the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, as well as the conviction of Timothy J. McVeigh. In 2016, he was denied even a hearing on his nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court by then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell – a snub that might come back to bite the Republican party in the longer run.
Bear in mind that, also this week, the attorney general announced a DOJ investigation into the Louisville, Kentucky Metro Police Department over the shooting of Breonna Taylor. And the day after the murder conviction of former officer Derek Chauvin last week, he revealed that DOJ is looking into whether the Minneapolis police department harbors a “pattern and practice” of illegal activity under federal law. During the Trump administration, DOJ was sharply criticized for pulling back on civil rights enforcement, and former Attorney General Bill Barr refused to investigate systemic racial discrimination in the Minneapolis police department after George Floyd’s death.
Merrick Garland is going to do the job this time:
Predictably, Giuliani’s legal team decried the warrants as “legal thuggery,” glossing over the fact that they were authorized by a federal judge and thus reflect a conclusion that there is probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed and that items connected to the crime were likely to be found in Giuliani’s home and office. Given Giuliani’s attorney status and connection to a former president, the decision to pursue such a warrant was no doubt vetted at the highest levels of DOJ.
Nonetheless, Giuliani, a former New York City mayor, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, and U.S. associate attorney general, lied on Fox News last night when he misstated the standard for a warrant as requiring a showing “that the person is going to destroy the evidence” or “run away with the evidence.” Andrew Feinberg, a top lawyer on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team, aptly responded, “This is not how search warrants work.”
No, that’s not how they work. And by the way, karma is a bitch:
Much of the Constitution’s fidelity to accountability now rests on Merrick Garland’s shoulders, as the stalemated U.S. Congress flails in the most basic task of investigation and oversight in connection with the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection, among other matters of deep constitutional concern that have arisen in recent years.
McConnell’s snubbing of Garland for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court might, in a strange twist of fate, have resulted in exactly what American democracy needs in this uniquely dire hour.
But still, Rudy really doesn’t matter very much, even now. Nor does Donald Trump. Toss the both in jail. Or don’t. Who cares now? There’s work to do.