Just how much trouble is Giuliani in?
As with Trump, Giuliani’s defenders can’t see how he could possibly have done anything wrong. Giuliani was work for the president which means that he cannot break any laws. If it was legal for Trump to fire an ambassador, how could it be illegal for Giuliani to tell Trump he should do so?
The answer is simple: Giuliani was being paid by foreign parties and Trump was not paying Giuliani.
To understand what was really going on, it is necessary to unpack what Josh Marshall calls the ‘Russian nesting dolls’ of the affair. It is also necessary to look at the situation in the context that since 2014, Ukraine has been at war with Russia and that as a result every Ukrainian politician and career criminal must therefore be aligned with either Russia or Ukraine.
I am a longstanding critic of the FBI being a combination of police force and intelligence agency for many reasons. One of the most important being that the two fields require entirely different standards of proof. Police must assume that a suspect is innocent until proven guilty but in intelligence and national security matters, nobody is above suspicion.
As the saying goes, there is no free lunch. The fact that Manafort offered to be Trump’s campaign manager for free despite being in severe financial distress was an obvious red flag. It was not just likely, it was almost certain that he was being paid to do the work by someone else. Tax returns presented in court show that Manafort owed $10 million to Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch at the time he went to work for Trump. The debt was later cancelled, therefore Manafort was working for Oleg Deripaska, not Trump.
We don’t yet know who Giuliani was ultimately working for but since Trump wasn’t paying him either, it was not Trump. We do know Giuliani received over a million dollars from Parnas and his associates. Giuliani has attempted to prevent examination of this arrangement with the laughable assertion that Parnas was Giuliani’s client and the relationship was thus covered by client-attorney privilege.
From a counter-intelligence point of view, there is abundant reason to believe that Manafort was a Russian agent or even an operative and that after Manafort was removed, Giuliani replaced him in that role. The timing is instructive. The Trump Tower meeting between the Trump campaign team and Russian intelligence took place on June 9th 2016. Giuliani endorsed Trump on July 18th, Trump received his first security briefing on August 17th and Manafort was fired two days later.
By Autumn 2017, Giuliani was a member of Trump’s inner circle, and regular visitor to the Oval Office where he argued for the interests of his large and growing list of clients including Pavel Fuks, a Ukrainian Russian developer and Reza Zarrab a Turkish gold trader facing US federal charges.
At this point, Giuliani has already crossed the line as far as criminal charges go. Giuliani was unquestionably acting as a lobbyist for foreign interests: They were paying Giuliani and Giuliani was arguing on their behalf in front of Trump. As with every other crime in the Federal code, the crime of unregistered lobbying is defined as performing a specific set of actions. Calling oneself a lobbyist isn’t one of them, nor does denying being a lobbyist provide a defense.
In April 2018, Giuliani began working as Trump’s personal lawyer. As with Manafort, he was not being paid. This raises a serious problem: If Trump wasn’t paying Giuliani for the work but others were, then either Giuliani wasn’t working for Trump and cannot claim client-attorney privilege or Trump was receiving an illegal indirect gift of the free legal services. It is of course most likely both are the case.
By late 2018, Giuliani was deep into the scheme that would prompt National Security Advisor John Bolton to tell Fiona Hill to tell her lawyers that he was “not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney were cooking up.”
Lets be clear, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act makes it a crime for any US citizen to bribe a foreign official. As with contract law, where the notion of a ‘valuable consideration’ is very wide. Prosecuting a person for any reason other than that it believed a crime was committed is a criminal act in the US and in Ukraine. Indicting Hunter Biden on a false charge was clearly to the political advantage of Trump and the Ukrainian/Russian oligarchs who were paying Giuliani. Releasing the hold on the military aid approved by congress was clearly a prohibited payment for the official act.
Next, there is the question of what exactly Giuliani knew about the provenance of the ‘Hunter Biden laptop’. Let us be clear, there is absolutely no evidence Hunter Biden ever touched the laptop in question let alone owned it. The story given by the owner of the shop to which it was allegedly taken for repair is clearly dubious: It is claimed that a man he can’t say was Hunter Biden because he is blind dropped off three laptops for repair at his store, 2600 miles from where he lives, that he agreed to repair all three for less than the price he normally charges to repair just one and that he decided to search through his customer’s files and send a copy to Giuliani knowing that he was a political opponent of Biden’s father and Giuliani handed the laptops over to the FBI at a politically opportune moment during the 2020 election campaign.
The story told by the store owner makes absolutely no sense. Nor does the fact that Hunter Biden’s lawyers have attempted to ‘reclaim’ the laptops. If I was in their situation, I would certainly want to recover the laptops so that an independent forensic examination could be made. I would want to know the serial numbers of the laptops in question so that I could then subpoena Apple for the date and time of manufacture. It is very likely Apple knows who originally bought them and when. Interviews with those persons would almost certainly show Giuliani’s story to be a deliberate fabrication which would mean he lied to the FBI.
Finally there is the question of Giuliani’s role in the Capitol riot. Giuliani spoke to the mob before the invasion of the Capitol and might well face charges over what he said. But it is rather more likely that the FBI will make a federal case out of the crimes described above in the hope of flipping Giuliani and getting his testimony against the rest of the conspirators.
Giuliani is of course innocent until proven guilty but that does not mean that we are therefore obliged to ignore the evidence against him. As a public figure who stands in front of us asking for our trust, we should take notice of the fact that he has spent the past five years working for Ukrainian/Russian mob bosses and that like Trump he tells a demonstrable lie every time he opens his mouth.