Lawyer and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani at a press conference after appearing in court to call for the dismissal of a lawsuit filed against video game giant Activision in Los Angeles, Calif., Oct. 16, 2014.
Photo by Damian Dovarganes/AP

To assist Trump, Giuliani says a bit too much about a foreign scheme

Rudy Giuliani is ostensibly one of Donald Trump’s most prominent allies, though the former New York City Mayor tends to cause more trouble for the president than he resolves.

Take last night, for example.

Giuliani, one of Trump’s personal lawyers, was interviewed by CNN’s Chris Cuomo, and the host asked Giuliani whether he asked Ukrainian officials to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden. “No,” the Republican replied. “Actually, I didn’t.”

About 30 seconds later, viewers were treated to this exchange:

CUOMO: So, you did ask Ukraine to look into Joe Biden?

GIULIANI: Of course, I did.

CUOMO: You just said you didn’t.

GIULIANI: No. I didn’t ask them to look into Joe Biden.

It actually went downhill from there.

To be sure, watching Giuliani’s apparent meltdown on national television was difficult. If he thought he was representing his client’s interests, the former mayor was mistaken.

But this was about more than just a former prominent politician embarrassing himself on camera. There’s actually a real story here, which may relate to the ongoing scandal about the intelligence community whistleblower.

As regular readers may recall, the New York Times published a curious article in May, raising questions about Biden’s work several years ago on a government-reform effort in Ukraine. There was some suggestion that the Delaware Democrat’s son may have benefited, but the claims of possible wrongdoing quickly unraveled, and the story went largely overlooked.

There was, however, a lingering question about what – or more accurately, who – was helping drive the story in the first place. The details were a little convoluted, but the Timesarticle made clear that it was Rudy Giuliani who was helping lead an effort to get Ukrainian assistance for Donald Trump’s political agenda. (At one point, the story noted, “Mr. Giuliani called Mr. Trump excitedly to brief him on his findings.”)

According to the reporting, Giuliani was encouraging Ukraine to launch investigations intended to help Trump’s re-election campaign. It was a rather striking revelation in its own right: one of the American president’s lawyers appeared to be pressuring a foreign government to assist with a political scheme intended to help the American president stay in power.

Giuliani didn’t exactly deny the scheme at the time, saying, “There’s nothing illegal about it. Somebody could say it’s improper.”

Four months later, Giuliani was interviewed on CNN and appeared to say he did, in fact, ask Ukraine to investigate Biden.

In case this isn’t painfully obvious, at the heart of the Russia scandal was a foreign government’s intervention in an American political campaign during the 2016 cycle. Ahead of the 2020 cycle, Donald Trump’s lawyer apparently had the bright idea of turning to a different foreign government – which is eager to be in the United States’ good graces – hoping it too might help influence the direction of an American campaign.

And it’s against this backdrop that there’s a complaint from a U.S. intelligence community whistleblower, who filed a credible complaint accusing Trump of making an allegedly improper “promise” in a scandal involving Ukraine.