GOP uneasy with Giuliani

President Trump’s allies are growing increasingly uneasy with Rudy Giuliani’s role at the heart of the Ukraine controversy that has engulfed the administration.

A White House transcript and whistleblower complaint have shed additional light on the extent of the former New York City mayor’s efforts to dig up dirt on Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden in service of Trump.

Giuliani’s involvement has implicated members of the State Department, frustrated Republican officials and placed the former mayor in the crosshairs of House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry.

{mosads}A former administration official, who requested anonymity to speak candidly, called it a “red flag” that Giuliani was involved in discussions with Ukraine, explaining that it could create confusion for a foreign country about who is representing U.S. interests.

“Typically, people at the State Department hate this kind of stuff,” the official said.

GOP lawmakers close to Trump have publicly called into question the strategy of Giuliani’s frequent media appearances.

“Rudy’s saying a lot of things and I’m not sure he’s helping the president by being on TV every 15 minutes,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told reporters last week.

But Giuliani is adamant that he’s being wrongly portrayed as a rogue actor and that he’ll be validated in the end.

“If they don’t like my strategy, I really don’t give a damn. They didn’t like my strategy when I was defending him against [former special counsel Robert] Mueller,” Giuliani told The Hill in an interview.

“When it’s over the same thing will happen,” he added. “If I go into the White House when this is over, they’ll clap for me like they did last time.”

Giuliani’s critics view him as a main driver behind the Ukraine controversy that has emerged as a serious threat to Trump’s presidency. Legal experts say he faces potential risks related to the House investigations into his work in Ukraine.

Trump told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that Giuliani would get in touch with him to discuss investigations into 2016 election interference and Biden, according to a reconstructed White House transcript of a phone call between the two presidents.

The whistleblower complaint, which raised alarm over the call, alleged that U.S. officials were concerned about Giuliani’s “circumvention” of the national security decisionmaking process as he served as a direct channel between Trump and the Ukrainians.

“The idea that somehow an important piece of diplomacy has been farmed out to someone who’s effectively a private citizen is very strange,” said Charles Kupchan, who worked on the National Security Council during the Obama and Clinton administrations.

Tom Bossert, Trump’s former homeland security adviser, publicly rebuked Giuliani for pushing what he termed a “debunked theory” that Ukraine could be involved in 2016 election interference — a topic Trump also broached on his call with Zelensky.

“I am deeply frustrated with what he and the legal team is doing and repeating that debunked theory to the president,” Bossert said on ABC’s “This Week,” emphasizing that the theory has no validity.”

In the interview with The Hill, Giuliani tore into Bossert, claiming he was “bitter.”

“He has some nerve questioning my legal strategy when he doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about,” Giuliani said.

Three House committees subpoenaed Giuliani on Monday for a wide range of documents and communications related to his efforts to persuade Ukraine to investigate the allegations about Biden and his family as part of the impeachment inquiry announced by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) last week.

Giuliani responded that the subpoena “will be given appropriate consideration” but has expressed skepticism about working with Democratic leaders.

Legal experts say Giuliani would face an uphill battle in resisting the subpoena on the basis of attorney client-privilege — something he has indicated he may do — noting that it would likely only apply to a narrow set of documents having to do with his conversations with Trump alone.

“It’s such a flimsy shield for him because it only applies to his conversations directly with Donald Trump,” said Elie Honig, a white-collar criminal defense attorney and former federal prosecutor in New York.

Attorney-client would not cover Giuliani’s communications with Ukrainians, for instance, or his discussions with other U.S. officials.

If Giuliani tries to thwart the subpoena, Democrats have a limited range of options to respond, including taking the president’s personal attorney to court in an effort to enforce the subpoena. House Democrats could also draft an article of impeachment against Trump for obstruction and use Giuliani’s refusal to comply as evidence to build their case, Honig said.

By Tuesday, Giuliani had lawyered up, tapping Jon Sale, a former assistant Watergate prosecutor and classmate of his, to represent him in the congressional investigations.

Giuliani has made pushing the narrative of corruption involving Biden and his family a chief goal in working for Trump. He said in May he would travel to Ukraine in search of information helpful to Trump but later called off that trip amid backlash. The Ukrainian president on Monday denied ever communicating with Giuliani.

Giuliani’s role as Trump’s pseudo-envoy to Ukraine led to tensions with top Cabinet officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, whose own involvement in the July 25 call has attracted congressional scrutiny. Giuliani has maintained the State Department was aware of his role and in some cases even facilitated meetings.

The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that Giuliani clashed with Attorney General William Barr dating back to the end of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation in April.

Giuliani said he hoped there was no friction with Pompeo, and he denied there was any tension between him and the attorney general, blaming leakers within the White House for spreading that story.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment on Trump’s feelings about Giuliani’s role in the burgeoning Ukraine scandal, but the president has appeared pleased with his lawyer’s performance as an attack dog against Biden.

And Giuliani remained confident that he would end up on the right side of history for pursuing allegations of corruption. He blamed the press for giving the Obama administration a free pass on Biden’s alleged conflicts of interest and questioned why Republicans hadn’t done more at the time to stop it.

“I also see this is an opportunity to blow open the double standard, to show the Washington press corps how incompetent they are,” Giuliani told The Hill. “Corruption was going on in front of their eyes and they just let it go on.”

Alexander Bolton and Juliegrace Brufke contributed.

Tags Donald Trump Impeachment Joe Biden Lindsey Graham Mike Pompeo Nancy Pelosi Robert Mueller Rudy Giuliani William Barr

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