Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, raised eyebrows when ThinkProgress first reported that he would be speaking alongside a sanctioned Russian official at a panel in Armenia on Tuesday.
The confusion was only amplified by the actual content of Giuliani’s speech — prompting observers to question why the former New York City mayor would be invited to speak about technology in the first place.
Giuliani appeared next to sanctioned Russian official Sergei Glazyev, a man with a history of working closely with some of the U.S.’s most notorious anti-Semites. The pair were on a panel at the Eurasian Week conference, an annual affair dedicated to the future of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), which includes Russia, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, and Belarus.
The topic of Giuliani’s panel was “Technological breakthrough and EAEU potential,” a subject on which Giuliani would appear to have little expertise. But that lack of knowledge didn’t stop Giuliani — whom Trump previously named as an adviser on cybersecurity affairs — from speaking for roughly 20 minutes on topics ranging from sharing intelligence to electric grids to the safety of driver-less cars.
His lack of expertise on the various topics was immediately apparent to at least one member of the audience.
“Giuliani showed up, and they gave him the podium, and he gave a talk on cybersecurity — but quite frankly it was a total bullshit talk,” one attendee, who requested anonymity, told ThinkProgress.
Despite Giuliani’s claims that he was in Armenia as a private citizen, both conference material and his own introduction identified him as an adviser to Trump. (Needless to say, Giuliani is the most prominent Trump adviser to now speak alongside a sanctioned Russian official in a supposedly private capacity.) And when he was asked whether the U.S. and EAEU could potentially cooperate in the realm of cybersecurity, Giuliani responded, “I don’t see any risks in sharing secrets on cybersecurity.”
The EAEU, of course, includes Russia, which led hacking and social media interference efforts to support Trump’s campaign and sow division across the U.S. Likewise, the EAEU was initially positioned as the Kremlin’s grand geopolitical project following Vladimir Putin’s return to the presidency in 2012 — although that project eventually faltered following Russia’s 2014 invasion of Ukraine.
Despite Giuliani’s nominal role as a cybersecurity adviser to the president, his work on the matter appears negligible, and it’s unclear whether he’s accomplished anything of note while in the position — besides flying to Armenia to stand alongside Glazyev.
It’s also worth noting who joined Giuliani at the conference: In addition to Glazyev, Giuliani’s company included individuals like Ara Abrahamyan, a businessman who has previously said that Putin “gives orders and I carry them out,” and others who have vocally defended the Kremlin in the past.
As Talking Points Memo’s Josh Kovensky noted:
Giuliani was invited to the event by Russian-Armenian multimillionaire Ara [Abrahamyan], who heads the Union of Armenians of Russia, according to a local press report. [Abrahamyan], an UNESCO goodwill ambassador, was awarded an order “For merit to the fatherland” by Putin at the Kremlin last year.
[Abrahamyan] sits on the advisory board of TriGlobal Strategic Ventures, a consulting firm the New York Times described as “providing image consulting to Russian oligarchs and clients with deep Kremlin ties.”
Another listed speaker, Russian official Georgy Kalamanov, recently offered a full-throated defense of the Kremlin against accusations that Moscow was responsible for the poisoning of Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal in the U.K. (For good measure, one of the few Americans at the conference, Daniel Witt, has his own history of helping whitewash post-Soviet dictatorships.)
All told, Giuliani’s speech was an effective capstone to a series of questionable decisions that Trump’s personal lawyer has recently made, including his bizarre condemnation of Romania for cracking down on corruption too effectively.
It’s unclear if Giuliani was paid to attend the event in Armenia. However, Giuliani has picked up numerous clients as part of his work at Giuliani Security & Safety, his personal consulting firm — clients he’s been only too happy to help, regardless of his position as Trump’s adviser and personal lawyer. Neither Giuliani’s firm nor conference organizers responded to ThinkProgress’s questions.
For at least one person who attended Giuliani’s speech, the talk was a waste of time.
“Maybe he just assumed people in the audience don’t speak fluent English, so he could get away with it,” the conference attendee told ThinkProgress. “Eventually it got to the point where I started to reevaluate my life and think, ‘What the fuck am I doing here, sitting here listening to Rudy Giuliani talk about something he clearly knows nothing about when I have real work to get back to?'”