Nope, Not Gonna Do It
The New York Times reports that President Trump’s attorney, Rudy Giuliani, is under investigation by federal prosecutors in Manhattan for foreign lobbying disclosure violations. The charges stem from his efforts to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, as well as the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, who was recalled in May, two months earlier than scheduled.
U.S. law requires American citizens to disclose to the DOJ “any contacts with the government or media in the United States at the direction or request of foreign politicians or government officials, regardless of whether they pay for the representation.”
Sources told the New York Times that this is related to the Wednesday night arrests (for campaign finance violations) of the two Ukrainian-American men who had allegedly helped facilitate Giuliani’s investigation of the Bidens and Ms. Yovanovitch.
Giuliani has denied wrongdoing. He has openly discussed his efforts to investigate the Bidens’ dealings in Ukraine and Ms. Yovanovitch’s efforts to undermine Trump in her capacity as the U.S. ambassador. He points out that he is the President’s attorney, and he works to defend his client.
When questioned by the Times, Giuliani said, “Look, you can try to contort anything into anything, but if they have any degree of objectivity or fairness, it would be kind of ridiculous to say I was doing it on [former Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy] Lutsenko’s behalf when I was representing the President of the United States.”
Mr. Giuliani also told the Times he was unaware of any investigation into him, and “he defended the pressure campaign on Ukrainians, which he led, as legal and above board.” (This is not a direct quote from Giuliani, it is the Times’ version of what he said to them. I don’t believe Giuliani would characterize his actions as a “pressure campaign” on Ukrainians.)
Giuliani, who led the SDNY throughout much of the 1980s, has now become their target.
The Times’ piece can be viewed here. But, I must caution you, throughout the article, the writers leap to political conclusions that have not yet been established, which is to be expected from this newspaper.
For example, they write, “The associates were charged with funneling illegal contributions to a congressman whose help they sought in removing Ms. Yovanovitch.”
Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman made contributions to multiple candidates and political action committees, one of which was a $20,000 donation to former Rep. Pete Sessions’ (R-TX) 2018 campaign. The Times portrays it as if this was their sole transaction. The men have merely been charged and while help in removing Ms. Yovanovitch may have been the motive behind this contribution, it has not been proven. Until then, it remains an allegation.
Knowing that House Democrats are now exploiting the recall of Ms. Yovanovitch in their impeachment inquiry, the authors have given this subject top billing in their article, when the main focus of Giuliani’s investigation was the Bidens.
They write, “Mr. Lutsenko had sought to relay the information he had collected on Mr. Trump’s targets to American law enforcement agencies and saw Mr. Giuliani as someone who could make that happen.” The inference was that Lutsenko was trying to violate a law by giving this information to the U.S. government.
The real wrongdoing was the measures taken by government officials to prevent the Attorney General from receiving this information. Lutsenko and Shokin had tried on numerous occasions to do so. Ms. Yovanovitch is alleged to have tried to impede their efforts. No one in the Jeff Sessions DOJ would acknowledge this material. Lutsenko and Shokin even hired a retired U.S. attorney to hand deliver it to the current U.S. attorney of the SDNY, Geoffrey Berman. Still, it was not acknowledged.
With the exception of Giuliani, no one has bothered to examine President Trump’s reasons for Ms. Yovanovitch’s removal. Rather, they’ve jumped to the conclusion that she was wrongly recalled from her post to further the President’s personal political goals. She is alleged to have discredited the President abroad, blocked both U.S. and Ukrainian government efforts to investigate the Bidens, and to have presented Lutsenko with a “do not prosecute” list among other things.
In her prepared opening statement for her testimony before House lawmakers on Friday, she said Lutsenko had retracted that accusation that she had given him such a list. I looked for such a retraction and found only a long, muddled, wildly spun explanation from ABC Go which ended with the following:
Around the same time, Lutsenko indicated in an interview with a Russian-language news outlet that his initial account of Yovanovitch giving him a “do-not-prosecute list” was not accurate.
I wrote about this here.
ABC gives us an approximate time, “around the same time,” rather than a precise date or a program so that we may verify it. For the same reason, they don’t name the news outlet. Finally, they say only that his statement was not accurate. How was it inaccurate? That is not a retraction. And this makes Ms. Yovanovitch’s statement that Lutsenko had retracted his accusation at the very least, misleading, or more likely, false information.
If Lutsenko had truly retracted his statement, we would have heard about it and not from a Russian-language news outlet. The truth is that many officials inside the U.S. Embassy in Kiev were corrupt.
Finally, just as former FBI Director James Comey “served at the pleasure of the President” and could be removed for no reason at all, U.S. ambassadors “serve at the pleasure of the President.” If Trump wanted her removed because he didn’t like the way she looked at him, he could fire her. Yet Democrats are making this part of their impeachment inquiry. One Democrat recently called her ousting a “perversion of U.S. foreign policy.”
Democrats are employing the same tactics they used when they framed Trump for colluding with the Russians. The FBI built an obstruction case against President Trump for firing Comey. Now it’s Yovanovitch. And just as they targeted Roger Stone and others in the previous investigation, they are now pursuing Rudy Giuliani (and others). Same strategy, new names.
Next Friday, the DOJ Inspector General’s long-delayed report on FISA abuse is due to be released. Finally, Republicans will have some ammunition to fight back. The more comprehensive reports, those from Attorney General William Barr and Prosecutor John Durham, whose investigations have just expanded due to new evidence, may take some time.