The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) reportedly revealed over the weekend that it is opting to keep President Donald Trump’s private lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, at arm’s length.
On Monday, the New York Times (NYT) revealed:
The Justice Department distanced itself on Sunday from Rudolph W. Giuliani, President Trump’s personal lawyer, declaring that department officials would not have met with Mr. Giuliani to discuss one of his clients had they known that federal prosecutors in New York were investigating two of his associates.
Several weeks ago, Brian A. Benczkowski, the head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, and lawyers from the division’s Fraud Section met with Mr. Giuliani to discuss a bribery case in which he and other attorneys were representing the defendants.
Peter Carr, a spokesman for DOJ, told the Times:
When Mr. Benczkowski and fraud section lawyers met with Mr. Giuliani, they were not aware of any investigation of Mr. Giuliani’s associates in the Southern District of New York and would not have met with him had they known.
DOJ officials met with Giuliani before the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan charged his associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, with breaking campaign finance laws to gain political influence.
Parnas and Fruman reportedly played a role in Giuliani’s efforts to push Ukraine to investigate corruption allegations against Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.
Last week, Fiona Hill, a former Russia adviser at Trump’s National Security Council (NSC), told impeachment investigators that Giuliani ran a shadow foreign policy in Ukraine, bypassing U.S. officials and career diplomats.
The Times pointed out:
Even as Mr. Giuliani ran a shadow foreign policy campaign to pressure Ukraine to investigate the president’s political enemies — which is now at the heart of an impeachment inquiry against Mr. Trump — he and his business associates were under criminal investigation for unlawfully wielding political influence. And while all of this was happening, Mr. Giuliani still served as a lawyer to clients with cases to plead before the Justice Department.
Former U.S. Special Envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker and the Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland confirmed to impeachment investigators that they worked on Ukraine policy with Giuliani.
Sondland testified that he was “disappointed” at Trump’s order to work with Giuliani.
“Our view was that the men and women of the State Department, not the president’s personal lawyer, should take responsibility for all aspects of U.S. foreign policy toward Ukraine,” Sondland declared in written remarks prepared for his deposition last Thursday.
Giuliani has maintained he did nothing wrong in Ukraine. Echoing House Republican lawmakers, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo defended Trump’s decision to rely on Giuliani in Ukraine.
“This is completely appropriate,’’ Pompeo said on ABC News’ This Week, adding, “There have been private citizens [involved in diplomacy] all the time.”
“The President is allowed to have whoever he thinks is going to serve the interests of the country doing work for him,” Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) added last week
DOJ has refused to confirm or deny reports that Trump’s private lawyer is under investigation, the Times acknowledged.
House Democrats pursuing the impeachment probe are trying to determine if Trump abused his power by allegedly pressuring Ukraine to investigate the Bidens in exchange for aid. Trump and Ukraine have denied the allegations. Democrats, however, have suggested their impeachment inquiry may extend beyond Ukraine.