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

Facing possible criminal probe, Giuliani does himself no favors

Updated

The Rachel Maddow Show, 10/11/19, 9:59 PM ET

Giuliani under investigation for breaking lobbying laws: NYT

Rachel Maddow shares breaking news from the New York Times that Rudy Giuliani is being investigated for whether he broke lobbying laws.
Over the last several days, CNN, Bloomberg News, and ABC News have each run reports on Rudy Giuliani facing possible criminal scrutiny for his role in Donald Trump’s Ukraine scheme, and over the weekend, the New York Times advanced the story a bit more.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are investigating whether President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani broke lobbying laws in his dealings in Ukraine, according to two people familiar with the inquiry.

The investigators are examining Mr. Giuliani’s efforts to undermine the American ambassador to Ukraine, Marie L. Yovanovitch, one of the people said. She was recalled in the spring as part of Mr. Trump’s broader campaign to pressure Ukraine into helping his political prospects.

All of this, of course, comes on the heels of Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, two highly controversial Giuliani associates, being taken into federal custody last week, following their alleged illegal campaign contributions, which went to officials whose help they sought in removing Yovanovitch from her post as the U.S. ambassador.

Giuliani has already acknowledged working with Parnas and Fruman on the scheme to target Yovanovitch, but he told the Times it wasn’t illegal: the president’s lawyer argued that he was acting on Trump’s behalf “when he collected the information on Ms. Yovanovitch and the others and relayed it to the American government and the news media.”

He added in an interview with Foreign Policy on Friday, in reference to the American ambassador he targeted, “There was no secret campaign against her. It was an open campaign against her.”

These are curious things for the former mayor to admit on the record.

By Giuliani’s telling, he effectively ran a foreign operation against an American ambassador – who’d done nothing wrong, but who stood in the way of a Trump political scheme – on behalf of the American president.

As part of the scheme – again, by Giuliani’s own version of events – he tried to smear a Trump administration official with information he collected abroad, which he then passed along to other Trump administration officials, forcing an ambassador from her post, and clearing the way for a legally dubious campaign scheme to advance.

It’s convenient for the Republican lawyer’s critics that he’s been willing to acknowledge all of this. 

For his part, the president on Friday seemed to put some distance between himself and his personal attorney, though that posture changed over the weekend – one can only wonder what prompted Trump’s sudden change of heart – and the president had lunch with Giuliani as a gesture of support.

Trump added on Twitter, “So now they are after the legendary ‘crime buster’ and greatest Mayor in the history of NYC, Rudy Giuliani. He may seem a little rough around the edges sometimes, but he is also a great guy and wonderful lawyer. Such a one sided Witch Hunt going on in USA. Deep State. Shameful!”

I’d be curious to know whom Trump was referring to with the word “they.” Because if he’s talking about federal prosecutors, we may have yet another example of the president interfering with an ongoing criminal investigation.