Rudy Giuliani’s reputation will never recover from the impeachment hearings
Until he began stirring the pot in Ukraine, Rudy Giuliani was admired as a crime-busting federal prosecutor and “America’s Mayor” after the 9/11 attacks.
As revealed in the House impeachment hearings, however, Rudy Giuliani is actually our Littlefinger, the unscrupulous, scheming conniver in Game of Thrones. Littlefinger-like, Giuliani went slithering through a backchannel netherworld between the Oval Office, State Department diplomats and unsavory Ukrainians. Littlefield’s intrigues and duplicities disastrously collapsed on him, and something like that has happened to Giuliani.
The two Soviet-bloc-born businessmen Giuliani enlisted to assist him in Ukraine have been indicted; witnesses in the House impeachment proceedings threw him under the bus or effectively accused him of peddling Russian disinformation; and perhaps most humiliating of all, the U.S. attorney’s office that he once ran is now investigating him for his Ukrainian financial ties.
Giuliani claims that “the investigation I conducted concerning 2016 Ukrainian collusion and corruption, was done solely as a defense attorney to defend my client against false charges.” But as has been widely reported, there is no credible evidence to support his claims that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election and that then-Vice President Joe Biden campaigned to remove a Ukrainian prosecutor in order to protect his son Hunter, then a board member of Burisma Group, a Ukrainian company.
In her compelling testimony last week, Dr. Fiona Hill, a former National Security Council official and one of the country’s leading experts on Russia, condemned the “fictional narrative” promoted by Giuliani and others that Ukraine attacked the United States in 2016 as an invention by the “Russian security services themselves.” American intelligence agencies said exactly the same thing to U.S. senators in a recent private briefing.
Giuliani’s “investigation” of the Bidens was worthy of the bumbling Inspector Clouseau, but without Clouseau’s accidental successes. Giuliani initially claimed that his allegation against the Bidens came from Ukrainian chief prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko. That claim blew up in Giuliani’s face when Lutsenko publicly stated that he could find no evidence of wrongdoing by either Biden in Ukraine. So Giuliani attacked Lutsenko, calling him corrupt, and claimed that his allegation actually came from Lutsenko’s predecessor, Viktor Shokin, who is hardly a credible source. Shokin, whom practically the entire NATO alliance considers corrupt, was fired from his post because he would not even investigate corruption in his own office.
Under the rules of professional conduct, attorneys have a duty to zealously advocate their client’s position. But nothing in those rules obligates them to promote a fictional narrative. To the contrary, responsible attorneys recognize that doing so is unethical and could damage their client’s interests. They either dissuade their client from relying on or disseminating false facts or they withdraw from the representation.
Contrast Giuliani’s behavior with that of Trump’s White House aides, including White House Counsel Donald McGahn, who refused to carry out Trump’s instructions to obstruct the Mueller investigation. “The president’s efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful,” according to the Mueller report, “but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the president declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests.”
Judged by its consequences, Giuliani’s defense of Trump may have been one of the most disastrous legal representations in American history. Not only did Giuliani fail to achieve his client’s objectives — that Ukraine commence an investigation of the 2016 elections and the Bidens. But his “investigation” undermined or smeared able, patriotic career diplomats in the State Department, furthered the interests of Vladimir Putin in weakening American-Ukrainian ties and appears likely to precipitate his client’s impeachment, only the third presidential impeachment in American history.
This is not to say that Trump was putty in Giuliani’s hands. But he likely did not need much persuading since Giuliani’s truth-famished claims fit his suspicious, insecure and morally-challenged mindset. The day after Hill’s testimony, Trump was still repeating what his own intelligence agencies consider to be Russian talking points about Ukraine and the 2016 elections.
Rudy Giuliani deserves no one’s admiration. He will be remembered as the human “hand grenade,” to paraphrase the prescient John Bolton, who “blew everyone up.”
Gregory J. Wallance was a federal prosecutor during the Carter and Reagan administrations. He is the author most recently of “The Woman Who Fought An Empire: Sarah Aaronsohn and Her Nili Spy Ring.” Follow him on Twitter at @gregorywallance.