Since the impeachment inquiry began on Sept. 24th, Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, has been busy. Rudy has been implicated numerous times in Trump’s scheme to gain political dirt on Joe Biden by withholding previously approved military aid to Ukraine. On October, 1st. he hired Jon Sale, former Watergate prosecutor, to act as his criminal attorney. Giuliani has also refused a subpoena and vowed not to cooperate with the inquiry against Trump under the specious claim of attorney-client privilege. He has most notably made a series of bizarre television appearances, ostensibly in defense of his client, in which he has spewed misleading statements, outright lies and looked increasingly unstable doing so. That Donald Trump withheld desperately needed military aid to Ukraine is not in dispute. Nevertheless, there is still much to untangle about the entire saga. With each day’s damning testimony it becomes increasingly clear that Giuliani was a linchpin in it all.
The phone call that has Trump in jeopardy of impeachment occurred on July 25th. Rudy was laying groundwork for the extortion attempt more than two months prior. As early as May, Giuliani was pressuring newly-elected Ukrainian president Volodymr Zelensky to investigate Hunter Biden’s involvement with gas company, Burisma,. It has become a popular Republican talking point that as Vice-President Joe Biden intervened to have a Ukrainian prosecutor fired to prevent him from investigating malfeasance by Burisma and his son. In reality, the former VP had prosecutor Viktor Shokin fired at the insistence of the European Union, International Monetary Fund, and internal Ukrainian anti-corruption organizations, due in large part to the belief that Shokin was not doing enough to counter corruption. Shokin had no case open on either Burisma and no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of either Biden has come to light. However truth has never been an obstacle Trump couldn’t overcome in discrediting a political opponent. To that end, Giuliani spent parts of the spring trying to initiate bogus Ukrainian investigations of Biden to aid Trump in the 2020 election.
Giuliani’s name has come up repeatedly in the course of testimony before the House Intelligence Committee handling the impeachment inquiry against President Trump. He has been portrayed as a rogue figure, blurring the lines of diplomacy to execute a shadow foreign policy. With remarkable consistency, Giuliani has been portrayed as an unofficial State Department member, handling foreign policy matters in the service of his client rather than the nation.
Marie Yovanovitch was the former US ambassador to Ukraine, with a reputation for combating corruption in the fledging democracy. When she represented an impediment to Giuliani’s political machinations, he complained to Trump who had her recalled. Fiona Hill, the White House’s former top Russia expert, told investigators Giuliani ran shadow diplomacy, counter to official policiy to personally benefit President Trump. Diplomat William Taylor took the stand and confirmed Hill’s story. Former Special Envoy Kurt Volker told the Committee he had warned Giuliani to be leery of the information that he was receiving and the motives of those providing it to him. The latter revelation suggests the Giuliani had reason to believe the basis of the investigations he sought was not legitimate.
John Bolton, the former National Security Advisor, may take the stand this week. He was allegedly furious with Giuliani’s conduct in relation to the Trump-Ukraine scandal and advised Hill to raise her concern with NSC lawyers. His testimony could prove a damning blow to both Rudy and his client at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Consider that Trump mentioned his lawyer’s name eight times on the redacted memo of his call with Zelensky, and there seems to be unanimity on all sides that Giulani was intricately involved in the scheme to leverage military aid for political dirt. The testimony to date has cast Trump and Giuliani in a very scandalous light. Much of what has been said behind closed doors will likely bolster the formal impeachment case and Senate trial against President Trump. It seems at this juncture, that as much as Giuliani makes the rounds on conservative talk shows lambasting the impeachment inquiry, he has handed House Democrats a healthy amount of evidence against his personal client.
Further compounding Rudy’s legal predicament are the arrests of his associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. The pair of Soviet-born, U.S. citizens with ties to Ukraine have pleaded not guilty to four federal counts of violating campaign finance law in the Southern District of New York. Accusations against the two include making false statements to the Federal Election Committee, funneling foreign money into a political campaign and exceeding federal limits on campaign contributions. The latter charge is most germane to Giuliani and the case against Trump. Fruman and Parnas donated $20,000 to the 2018 re-election bid of Texas Republican Representative, Pete Sessions. Following the contribution, the pair met with the congressman to enlist his help with ‘’causing the U.S. government to recall then- U.S. Ambassador [Yovanovitch from Ukraine].’’ Yovanovitch’s ouster is seen as an inciting event of the entire Ukraine scandal. Only after her removal did the events at the core of the House’s inquiry take place.
Lev Parnas, spurned and discarded by the president, has opted to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry after an initial refusal in the aftermath of his arrest. In addition to his role in the removal of the former ambassador, he is alleged to have been enlisted by Giuliani to substantiate the unfounded smear campaign against Joe Biden. If Parnas proves the useful trove of information House Democrats hope he is, he could greatly strengthen the case against Trump and land Giuliani in serious legal trouble.
The objective of one’s personal lawyer is to look after the interest of his or her client. The objective of State Department personnel involved in diplomacy is to carry out official foreign policy. In his capacity as President Trump’s lawyer, Giuliani conflated the two ideas, interfered with official diplomatic channels and set in motion a chain of events that may end in his client’s removal from office. As President, Donald Trump is responsible for the attempted extortion of another country in exchange for personal political gain. However, it is impossible to overlook the implication that his lawyer not only failed to counsel against such a reckless course of action, but appears to have actively participated in the scheme.
Photo by Tina Hartung