Lindsey Graham: Giuliani sharing anti-Biden info with Justice Dept

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)
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.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has repeatedly said he intends to use the Senate Judiciary Committee, which he chairs, to target Donald Trump's political foes. As recently as the fall, the South Carolinian suggested his efforts would include hearing directly from Rudy Giuliani.

Yesterday, however, Graham appeared on CBS's Face the Nation and presented a different kind of game plan: Giuliani may not have to make his case to the Judiciary Committee because apparently there's a "process" in place in which the controversial presidential lawyer is sharing information directly with the Justice Department.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the Justice Department has created a process through which Rudy Giuliani, President Trump's personal attorney, can submit information he collected in Ukraine to be vetted."The Department of Justice is receiving information coming out of the Ukraine from Rudy," Graham, of South Carolina, said on "Face the Nation." "[Attorney General Bill Barr] told me that they have created a process that Rudy could give information and they would see if it's verified."

Whether or not the Justice Department has actually "created a process" for Giuliani is unclear, and given the circumstances, it's probably best not to take Lindsey Graham's word for it. (A Justice Department spokesperson declined to comment.)

But if the Judiciary Committee chairman is correct -- he claimed that he'd spoken to the attorney general that morning -- this is a dynamic that's awfully difficult to defend.

Indeed, Graham conceded during yesterday's on-air interview that some of the information Giuliani has collected -- the former mayor has been on the hunt in eastern Europe for anti-Biden dirt for several months -- "could be Russian propaganda." The senator suggested, however, that he's not overly concerned.

"Rudy Giuliani is a well-known man. He's a crime fighter. He's loyal to the president. He's a good lawyer," Graham said.

Why anyone would find this reassuring is unclear.

This isn't complicated. As University of Michigan law professor Barbara McQuade, a former U.S. Attorney and an MSNBC legal analyst, explained on Twitter yesterday, "We have actual public servants to investigate crime. They are bound by rules and public disclosure requirements and may not work for anyone else. Giuliani is not a government employee, and not bound by the rules. He is a private attorney for Donald Trump and other paying clients."

In other words, the Justice Department need not forge partnerships with freelance partisan operatives who work for the president as part of his re-election campaign.

Indeed, Face the Nation host Margaret Brennan stressed the same point with Graham, asking, in reference to the open channel between Giuliani and the Justice Department, "[T]his sounds a lot like this is in some ways a taxpayer funded oppo-research operation against Joe Biden."

But there's no reason to stop there. The emerging picture looks a little worse when Giuliani's unique circumstances come into focus: the Justice Department has apparently not just established a pipeline through which Donald Trump's lawyer can present dirt on a Democratic presidential candidate, the DOJ has done so with a lawyer whose sources of income remain hidden.

What's more, not to put too fine a point on this, but Giuliani is reportedly the subject of a criminal investigation launched by federal prosecutors. In other words, if Lindsey Graham's assessment is correct, Bill Barr's Justice Department is both investigating Giuliani and accepting dirt from Giuliani simultaneously.

And in case this weren't quite enough, let's also not forget that there's no reason to believe Giuliani has actual dirt on Joe Biden and his family. It'd be messy if the Justice Department partnered with a partisan operative facing a criminal investigation for legitimate information, but it appears Giuliani is chasing ghosts and shadows, while cavorting with figures of dubious reliability.

Graham seemed convinced yesterday that all of this is kosher. There's no reason for more objective observers to share his indifference.