1998 Giuliani debunked 2018 Giuliani on presidents evading subpoenas

Back then, President Trump's lawyer said a president called to testify has "no choice" but to comply.

Rudy Giuliani, in a 1998 interview
Then-Mayor of New York City Rudy Giuliani (R) in a 1998 interview. CREDIT: Charlie Rose screenshot

Rudy Giuliani claimed over the weekend that the president of the United States need not comply with a subpoena to testify if he is called by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. But this dubious legal argument was clearly rebutted, back in 1998, by then-New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

As President Donald Trump’s new legal counsel, Giuliani has undermined much of the president’s legal defense and admitted to a limited understanding of the facts. In a recent ABC This Week interview, he argued that presidents are exempt from subpoenas.

“We don’t have to. He’s the president of the United States,” Giuliani told host George Stephanopoulos. “We can assert the same privileges other presidents have.”

But 20 years ago, when Bill Clinton was in the White House, Giuliani took the exact opposite view. In a July 21, 1998 interview with Charlie Rose, he was asked about whether the president would have to testify before Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr’s grand jury if subpoenaed.

“You gotta do it. I’m mean you don’t have a choice,” Giuliani, a former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York opined.


He added that if Clinton wanted to challenge it, he’d have to convince a judge of some sort of recognizable exemption privilege. “And if a judge decides he doesn’t, then you have to testify. You don’t have a choice about that,” Giuliani said. Clinton voluntarily testified a month later.

“Under the criminal law, everyone should be treated the same,” 1998 Giuliani said. “And I know there are some people that say the president should be treated stricter. We used to have an era where the president was treated much more leniently. But I think the right answer is the president should be treated — as far as the criminal law is concerned, the president is a citizen.”