Litman: Rudy Giuliani's outrage is the refuge of a scoundrel
Even President Trump's Justice Department wanted to know what Rudy Giuliani was up to in Ukraine. (Charles Krupa / Associated Press)
It was entirely predictable that Rudy Giuliani would respond to the FBI raid of his office and home last week by claiming that a "corrupt double standard" was subjecting former President Trump supporters to "false accusations and trials". Advertising-conscious Giuliani was even willing to give it a name: Trump Derangement Syndrome.
It is outrageous to read Giuliani's attorney's statement that the Department of Justice is "targeting the attorney and mayor of the United States who did more to reduce crime than virtually anyone else in American history."
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But Giuliani's complaint is a haven for villains. The legitimacy of the search can be proven. Indeed, it is obvious to anyone who watched in mid-2019 when Giuliani, then the President's personal lawyer, ran a shakedown campaign in Ukraine and bombastically insisted that it was appropriate.
Giuliani's computer and phone were confiscated because federal prosecutors believe he may not have registered as a foreign lobbyist - in this case for Ukrainian reasons - as required by law. Instead of a partisan witch hunt, the investigation looks like a literal operation driven by facts and laws. that is, through Giuliani's own actions, not through politics.
Here's one thing to support that assessment: prosecutors in the southern district of the New York Department of Justice have tried to execute Giuliani's search warrant twice, even under Trump.
Specifically, they had tried to execute functionally identical arrest warrants: the prosecution last week had to prove to a judge that the information in the warrant and the allegation of a probable reason for the finding of a crime were still valid.
Both times the Giuliani warrant was issued in 2020, senior Justice Department officials - that would be Trump and William Barr's Department of Justice - said no because the Justice Department is not taking any obvious action that could influence voters in the 60 days prior to a choice. (The first "no" came before November 3rd and appears to be a fair application of department policy. The second after Election Day not so much.)
This story alone almost refutes Giuliani's accusation of partiality. It really is evidence to the contrary: prosecutors under Trump / Barr and President Biden and Atty. General Merrick Garland was looking for the same thing - a full investigation of what Giuliani was up to in Ukraine in 2019.
Indeed, it is ironic that the search stopped under Barr but was given the green light under Garland. Had Barr allowed the search, it would have given Giuliani a strong hand to beg Trump's forgiveness. Now he's out in the cold.
Beyond the consistency of the department, there is a wealth of publicly known evidence to support a Giuliani investigation. We know from testimony at Trump's first impeachment hearings that Giuliani ran what many at the State Department viewed as a rogue foreign policy campaign in Ukraine - rogue in the sense that he had no official role there and that what he was doing was US strategy contradicted interests.
In many ways, Guiliani tried to orchestrate the overthrow of what was then the United States. The ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, an exemplary civil servant who works effectively against corruption, was her official mandate. He also hit US officials - remember EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland's testimony of the impeachment? - Pressure President Volodymyr Zelensky to announce an investigation into Ukrainian relations by Hunter Biden, which would have made Trump a topic of conversation for the campaign. (Yovanovitch lost her job; Zelensky held out.)
The public record also shows that Giuliani was at odds with a Lev Parnas. In 2018, Parnas paid Giuliani $ 500,000 for consulting services for a largely non-existent company. Until 2019, he had acted as a mediator for Giuliani (and Trump) in Ukraine, looking for dirt on the Bidens among former officials who viewed Yovanovich as a threat. "I was there and did their job," Parnas told Rachel Maddow of Trump and his lawyer.
But Rudy claims he has a defense: There is a clause in "my contracts" that says, "I don't lobby."
It's a bizarre claim. He can also point to a contract provision that says, "I will not commit crimes and always behave like a perfect gentleman." Whether Giuliani has lobbied foreigners depends on: Did he act at the request of foreigners when trying to influence US government officials in Ukraine?
There is one final reason to reassure yourself about the fairness of the Giuliani investigation. The Justice Department didn't tell the White House last Wednesday that the search was coming.
"I give you my word," said Biden later, "I was not informed." (Similar indulgence is inconceivable in the Trump era.)
Indeed, the department appears to have leaned back to be indifferent to politics. The Giuliani Search took place the same day that Biden made his first speech to a joint congressional session. It would have been politically more convenient if the FBI had waited a little. Shortly after the raid was reported, Giuliani's former client weighed in. "It's so unfair," said Trump. "Rudy is a patriot."
As hard as it may be for Giuliani or Trump to believe, the government has its share of squeaky clean, steadfastly fair servants of the law. Among them are the persistent prosecutors in the southern New York borough. So the man is now at the helm of the Justice Department.
This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.
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