In the weeks since the feds raided Rudy Giuliani’s apartment and office in late April, close allies have tried to ferry a slew of emergency requests to former President Donald Trump and his advisers.
But according to three people familiar with the matter, Trump, as well as several of his legal advisers and longtime confidants, have been hesitant about swooping in to help the embattled Giuliani, who for years worked as Trump’s personal lawyer, a political adviser, and attack dog. Giuliani also served as a major player in the Trump-Ukraine scandal and as a key driver in the former president’s efforts to nullify Joe Biden’s clear victory in the 2020 election.
Team Trump’s reluctance to intervene comes at a time when federal investigators have ramped up their probe into whether Giuliani’s Ukraine-related work during the Trump era amounted to an unregistered and illegal lobbying operation on behalf of foreign figures. So far, no charges have been brought against the former New York City mayor as a result of this investigation, which began in 2019. Trump’s silence has led to simmering frustrations among members of Giuliani’s inner orbit, who privately allege that the ex-president’s team is working to convince him to hang Giuliani out to dry in his hour of need.
“It’s a question now of whether or not [the former president and his team] want to leave Rudy to fend for himself or if they’re going to take a stand against this,” one person close to Giuliani said last week. “Right now, we don’t know.”
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Among Giuliani allies’ pleas, the three sources said, have been for Trump to issue a strong verbal or written statement saying Giuliani’s work during the Trump-Ukraine saga was done on behalf of then-President Trump—and therefore not part of an illegal foreign lobbying effort. In other words, Trump’s corroboration would be more than good public relations for Giuliani, it would back up a key pillar of Giuliani’s legal argument that he wasn’t lobbying and is innocent of the allegations.
Other asks have included having the ex-president sign on to a legal motion to have federal investigators throw out any seized communications that Giuliani and his lawyers argue are covered by attorney-client privilege. Further, there have been repeated requests that Trump and his team financially aid Giuliani’s ballooning legal defense and help cover the mounting, sizable expenses.
Two people close to Trump say they have urged the former president to lay low on the matter and to refrain from making too many statements or commitments on Giuliani and the federal probe. These people have told Trump that it’s unclear what the feds have and that any statement could backfire both on him and on Giuliani. Moreover, various people in Trump’s social and political orbits have been trying to convince the former president for years that Giuliani has been too great a liability for him, and they have suggested that he cut the lawyer loose.
Many of them still blame Giuliani and his Ukraine shenanigans for getting Trump impeached the first time, and the attorney helped lead the Trumpworld and GOP charge in falsely claiming that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from the 45th U.S. president. In the aftermath of the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, both Trump and Giuliani have been slammed with lawsuit after lawsuit over their roles in firing up the mob that committed the anti-democratic assault.
In recent weeks, Trump himself has argued behind closed doors that he wouldn’t want to say Giuliani was doing all of the Ukraine work—which included a trans-Atlantic dirt-digging expedition on the Biden family that led to Trump’s first impeachment—on Trump’s behalf, according to one of the people close to the former president. Trump’s reasoning, this source relayed, is based in the ex-president’s insistence that he didn’t always know what Giuliani was doing during the Ukraine effort or concocting with his Ukrainian pals, several of whom Trump has privately dinged as “idiots.”
It is also unclear when or if Trump will ultimately sign on to the desired legal motion, with allies to Giuliani expressing consternation over how the ex-president and his lawyers have not jumped at the opportunity.
On Sunday, Robert Costello, Giuliani’s longtime attorney, said, “We do not know what, if anything, President Trump will do,” when asked by The Daily Beast whether Trump’s legal team would intervene in the effort to scuttle the search warrant. Costello said Giuliani’s attorneys have not formally asked Trump’s legal team to do so. “They can make up their own minds,” he said.
He added that neither he nor his client has asked Trump to make a statement since federal agents seized Giuliani’s electronic devices.
Alan Dershowitz, a celebrity lawyer who served on Trump’s legal team during the first impeachment trial, is now actively counseling Giuliani and his attorneys. “I’ve said to them that it would be very good to get people [including Trump] whose materials might have been seized to... become part of the [motion],” Dershowitz said in a brief interview.
The two sources close to the former president each said Trump has repeatedly expressed sympathy for Giuliani’s ongoing woes but has not committed to overtly assisting his personal lawyer yet. Another person familiar with the situation told The Daily Beast that Giuliani has said he remains convinced that Trump won’t abandon him and will step up when the time is right.
Over the decades and during his presidency, however, Trump has cemented a reputation for regularly turning his back on close allies and one-time loyalists, including when legal or political pressures became too hot for him. Chief among these former allies is one of Giuliani’s bitter rivals, Michael Cohen, another former personal lawyer and fixer of Trump’s. Cohen turned on his former boss after he felt abandoned by Trump following a 2018 federal raid and has since become an enthusiastic witness for federal investigators who’ve been looking into Trump and his business empire.
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When federal agents executed a search warrant on Cohen’s office in 2018, Trump intervened in the case and hired attorneys who argued that they should be allowed to review seized materials for privileged attorney-client materials before prosecutors could. Whether Trump will intervene similarly in a case involving the warrant against Giuliani remains to be seen.
Trump did jump in to help some advisers after the authorities came knocking, including Steve Bannon, Roger Stone, and Paul Manafort, all of whom received presidential pardons within the final month of Trump’s term in the White House. In December, The New York Times reported that the then-president had discussed with people close to him the prospect of issuing a pre-emptive pardon to Giuliani and “talked with Mr. Giuliani about pardoning him as recently as [late November].” Ultimately, Giuliani did not receive a pre-emptive pardon, and he has denied that he had a conversation with Trump about the possibility.
Giuliani has repeatedly argued that his efforts to oust Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch as U.S. envoy to Ukraine were carried out solely on behalf of his client, President Trump. A statement from Trump would help buttress Giuliani’s public case, but it wouldn’t necessarily help him in court.
“Nothing Donald Trump may say publicly to help Giuliani is likely to get into evidence,” David H. Laufman, a partner at Wiggin and Dana and a former chief of the Justice Department’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section, which oversees FARA prosecutions, told The Daily Beast. “Giuliani’s attorney will be able to cross-examine the government’s witnesses if he’s charged, and Giuliani always has the option of testifying in his own defense. But any press statements by Donald Trump to the effect of ‘Hey, he was just working for me’ almost certainly aren’t coming into evidence.”
“In the highly improbable scenario that Trump testified for Giuliani, the notion of Giuliani trying to use the attorney-client privilege as a shield would go out the window. The privilege is held by Trump, not by Giuliani,” Laufman continued.
Long before the search of Giuliani’s apartment, Trump appeared hesitant to say outright that his attorney’s work in Ukraine was conducted solely on the president’s behalf. During the peak of the impeachment inquiry in the fall of 2019, former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly asked Trump what Giuliani was up to in Ukraine.
“I knew he was going to go to Ukraine and I think he canceled the trip. But you know, Rudy has other clients other than me. I’m one person that he represents,” Trump said.
Asked if he’d told Giuliani to travel to Ukraine, Trump said: “No.”
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