Donald Trump isn’t sure if Rudy Giuliani is still his lawyer.
And we’re not kidding. He really isn’t sure.
Asked on Friday if Giuliani is “still his personal attorney”, the president skipped a beat and then said “Well, I don’t know, I haven’t spoken to Rudy”.
Half a breath after claiming he hasn’t chatted with the New York icon-turned-lunatic, Trump contradicted himself. “I spoke to him yesterday very briefly”.
He then claimed Rudy is “a very good attorney and he has been my attorney”.
Yes, he sure has, sir. And this week wasn’t a good one for Rudy.
Specifically, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, the two Florida businessmen who served as Giuliani’s fixers in Ukraine and were instrumental in the former mayor’s efforts to dig up dirt on Joe Biden, were arrested trying to leave the country.
The two men were charged in a scheme to buy influence with lawmakers, including former Texas Rep. Pete Sessions, who angled for the ouster of then-Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. Sessions has denied wrongdoing.
On Friday, Yovanovitch told lawmakers that although she “does not know Mr. Giuliani’s motives for attacking me… individuals who have been named in the press as contacts of Mr. Giuliani may well have believed that their personal financial ambitions were stymied by our anti-corruption policy in Ukraine”.
Sessions, along with House minority leader Kevin McCarthy (who has spent the last three weeks working furiously to undermine the impeachment probe and defend Trump), have pledged to donate the money they received from Parnas and Fruman to charity.
“These contributions were made ahead of events sponsored by Protect the House, a joint fundraising committee that McCarthy helped form last cycle”, McCarthy’s spokesman Matt Sparks said in a statement. “The deception documented in [this week’s] indictment has no place in our country and as a result, McCarthy plans to donate amounts received to a local charity”.
Parnas and Fruman were also implicated in a marijuana scheme involving two other defendants (David Correia and Andrey Kukushkin) and an unidentified Russian businessman.
“Their deception cannot, and should not, be tolerated”, Sessions says in statement. He’s donating the money he received from the men to central Texas organizations serving abused women and children, and the elderly, he said.
All of this is obviously bad news for Giuliani and according to The New York Times, he is now under investigation by New York prosecutors for his activities in Ukraine, with an emphasis on alleged efforts to undermine Yovanovitch through Parnas and Fruman.
“Mr. Giuliani has denied wrongdoing, but he acknowledged that he and the associates worked with Ukrainian prosecutors to collect potentially damaging information about Ms. Yovanovitch and other targets of Mr. Trump and his allies, including former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his younger son, Hunter Biden”, The Times writes, adding that Giuliani “shared that material this year with American government officials and a Trump-friendly columnist in an effort to undermine the ambassador and other Trump targets”.
The reference to “government officials” is to Mike Pompeo and the State department, and “Trump-friendly columnists” is a reference to a series of articles in The Hill by John Solomon. Solomon interviewed his sources ‘independently”, but that’s largely irrelevant. His articles were mentioned in the whistle-blower complaint at the heart of the impeachment inquiry.
“Federal law requires American citizens to disclose to the Justice Department any contacts with the government or media in the United States at the direction or request of foreign politicians or government officials, regardless of whether they pay for the representation”, The Times goes on to say.
There’s just one problem – namely that William Barr is himself engaged in the global effort to dig up dirt on Trump’s political opponents, although not necessarily with regard to the Bidens. Barr’s focus is on the origins of the Mueller probe, and part of Giuliani’s pressure campaign against Yovanovitch involved perpetuating a false narrative about her alleged involvement in an anti-Trump conspiracy. Here’s The Dallas Morning News to expand a bit:
Sessions asserted that he met with Parnas and Fruman “about the strategic need for Ukraine to become energy independent,” adding that “there was no request in that meeting” and that he “took no action.” He later had “a couple additional meetings” with them. “Again,” he said, “at no time did I take any official action after these meetings.”
He said that he urged Pompeo to remove Yovanovitch because “several congressional colleagues reported to me that the current U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine was disparaging President Trump to others as part of those official duties.
“My entire motivation for sending the letter was that I believe that political appointees should not be disparaging the President, especially while serving overseas,” he said.
Yovanovitch says this is all just as far-fetched as it sounds.
“The Obama administration did not ask me to help the Clinton campaign or harm the Trump campaign, nor would I have taken any such steps if they had”, she flatly told Congress on Friday.
So far, there’s no indication that prosecutors are prepared to file charges against Giuliani, but what does seem clear is that if that happens, he will argue he was acting at the direction of the White House.
“Giuliani said that federal prosecutors had no grounds to charge him with foreign lobbying disclosure violations because he said he was acting on behalf of Mr. Trump, not the Ukrainian prosecutor, Yuriy Lutsenko”, The Times says, quoting Giuliani as follows:
Look, you can try to contort anything into anything, but if they have any degree of objectivity or fairness, it would be kind of ridiculous to say I was doing it on Lutsenko’s behalf when I was representing the president of the United States.
Lutsenko has since denied that he ever had concrete evidence of wrongdoing by anyone, and described Giuliani as paranoid and “obsessed” in a recent interview with The LA Times.
Giuliani surely knows Trump will disavow him when the chips are down, but says he isn’t aware of anyone investigating him. The Times notes that CNN and other news organizations have revealed that federal prosecutors are looking closely at Giuliani’s financial arrangements with his associates, but until Friday night, nobody had reported that federal prosecutors in Manhattan were investigating his foreign lobbying in Ukraine.
Giuliani claims he wasn’t instructed by Lutsenko to orchestrate Yovanovitch’s ouster. “He didn’t say to me, ‘I came here to get Yovanovitch fired.’ He came here because he said he had been trying to transmit this information to your government for the past year, and had been unable to do it”, Rudy told The Times, describing a meeting in New York with Ukraine’s former top prosecutor.
Giuliani insists he still represents Trump, despite the president’s doubts, as expressed to the media on Friday.
Asked about Parnas and Fruman after their arrest this week, Trump claimed to be totally in the dark. “I don’t know them. I don’t know about them, I don’t know what they do”, he said.
It won’t surprise you to learn that the president is lying. The idea that Trump doesn’t know the two men who were effectively working for him (at arm’s length through Giuliani) in the effort to gin up a reason to remove Yovanovitch and smear the Bidens is patently absurd. And even if you were inclined to believe it, here’s a Facebook post that might change your mind:
And here’s another one, for good measure:
In a kind of pseudo-lament, The Times writes that the newly-revealed investigation is “a stark turn for Giuliani, who now finds himself under scrutiny from the same United States attorney’s office he led in the 1980s”.
We’ll leave you with a clip of Rudy lounging with Parnas and Fruman. “See you in Ukraine soon!”