In defense of Rudy Giuliani, who I've been speaking to for weeks

At one point, the president's attorney appeared to send me his password, before texting that it was a 'butt dial' and adding a smiley-face emoji

Roger Sollenberger
New York
Thursday 07 November 2019 17:40
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Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani poses with President Trump at the clubhouse of Trump International Golf Club in New Jersey in 2016. EPA/PETER FOLEY
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani poses with President Trump at the clubhouse of Trump International Golf Club in New Jersey in 2016. EPA/PETER FOLEY

A virtually endless scroll of evidence tells us not to trust Rudy Giuliani. He lies constantly, sometimes contradicting himself in the space of a minute. He once said “truth is not truth.” He’s pursued shady business deals in notoriously corrupt countries the world over — Ukraine included — and some of that work involved two of his business partners now indicted for financial crimes. He’s reportedly the subject of an FBI counterintelligence investigation, precipitated by those very deals (although he denies any such investigation.)

His hallmark “broken windows” policing policy as Mayor of New York City, which he still touts for dramatically reducing the city’s crime rate in the 1990s, incubated unconstitutional law enforcement tactics. Now in the middle of his third divorce, he’s allegedly leveraging his pro bono work for President Donald Trump to artificially deflate the alimony he owes. And a few days into my first interactions with him, while he was attending a Yankees-Twins playoff game with lawyer Alan Dershowitz, he accidentally texted me what several IT experts have since confirmed is clearly a password. When I alerted him, he said it was “just a butt dial,” thanked me, and punctuated the text with a smiley-face emoji.

My “defense” of Rudy here is mainly drawn from several conversations I’ve had with him over the last month or so. But it isn’t shoe-shining or rehabilitative journalism. It’s “the boy who cried wolf,” from the perspective of the boy. Because there really was a wolf, that one time.

Last month I published two articles partly informed by these conversations. To summarize, Giuliani’s story was that in July and August he’d been on a sort of mission in conjunction with State Department officials, who enlisted him as an unofficial envoy to assist in a quid pro quo that would damage Trump’s personal political rivals. Congressional testimonies and other evidence later corroborated that general arc, as well as many previously unreported claims of fact.

Over time I developed what I can only describe as a narrow borderline sympathy for Rudy: He really was telling the truth about certain things, but no one believed him. (He also lied to me. A lot.) And that shouldn’t be controversial to say. We know Rudy can be fascinatingly open about things he really probably shouldn’t be.

Of course, the 75-year-old former US Attorney has spent much of the last year investigating and peddling widely debunked conspiracy theories about former vice-president Joe Biden and the Democratic National Committee. Over that time, Giuliani leveraged his personal influence with the president to infiltrate the US foreign policy apparatus and bend officials at the highest level of the US government — indeed, America’s entire Ukraine policy — to his will.

Rudy Giuliani says his mission is to 'disrupt the world'

To hear US officials tell it, they had no choice. They were helpless lambs to Trump’s crackpot wolfing. But you always have a choice, and the choices that those officials made over the summer seem to have led them to assume witting roles in what Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland himself described as illegal activity — a whole pack of Rudys.

Giuliani has been uncharacteristically consistent — and not just with me — about the facts surrounding his August 2nd meeting with top Ukrainian official Andriy Yermak in Madrid. After that meeting, Volker and Sondland took the step of actively collaborating with Giuliani and Yermak on a quid pro quo: They promised Ukraine a White House meeting with President Trump, as long as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky released a statement the US diplomats drafted with Giuliani and Yermak.

That statement, per text chains and congressional testimony, committed Ukraine to opening investigations that would damage the character and campaign of Joe Biden in the interest of serving Trump’s personal political agenda.

The State Department officials — now more than happy to use Giuliani as their rodeo clown — justified this to themselves, the truth is that they are just as guilty. They collaborated with a foreign government in an effort to influence voters in the 2020 election, to the current president's benefit. Nowhere is any of this in the diplomatic handbook, or in history for that matter.

Nancy McEldowney, former Director of the Foreign Service Institute under Barack Obama, told me, “The nefarious shadow foreign policy run by Giuliani, Volker, Sondland, and Secretary of Energy Rick Perry undermines the credibility of our foreign policy and makes institutions like the State Department vulnerable to accusations they’re part of a partisan game.”

We obsessed too long over Giuliani’s reality TV circus. We’ve missed the story and missed it again. Shame on the boy who cries wolf. Shame also on the wolves.

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