Over the past year, there are few Americans who have done as much to damage U.S. interests abroad — especially among the nascent democracies in Eastern Europe — as Rudy Giuliani.
In the past nine months alone, Giuliani has taken part in a trio of ventures that have helped cement or encourage anti-democratic interests across Eastern Europe. His actions have undercut the United States’ goals to promote democracy and encourage the rule of law in the region. At times, they have subverted White House policy outright.
In one sense, Giuliani’s series of blunders are ironic, given that his own client is President Donald Trump, the man nominally tasked with entrenching American interests abroad.
On the other hand, though, they point to Trump’s apparent willingness to send Giuliani scouring across Eastern Europe in pursuit of the president’s — rather than the country’s — personal interests.
Giuliani did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this story through his consulting firm, which represents several foreign clients as Giuliani simultaneously serves as the president’s lawyer.
Giuliani’s most prominent misadventures over the past few weeks have centered on his startling plan to convince Ukrainian authorities to revisit an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden’s son — all, it appears, in order to damage Biden’s chances at the 2020 Democratic nomination.
Giuliani’s blinkered plan got a major boost from the New York Times earlier this month, when the Times’ Ken Vogel effectively acted as Giuliani’s stenographer for the venture. Per Vogel, Biden apparently faced “conflict of interest questions” surrounding his son’s involvement in a Ukrainian company.
One problem, though: The only person who appeared to be raising these questions was Giuliani. While Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, did raise eyebrows with his involvement in a Ukrainian gas company in the immediate aftermath of Ukraine’s successful 2014 EuroMaidan revolution, regional watchers never attributed Hunter Biden’s decision to the former vice president.
As Giuliani sees it, Joe Biden stands at the center of a nefarious plot to oust Ukraine’s former prosecutor, who had been poking into the company for which Hunter Biden worked. Yet Giuliani’s narrative collapses upon even basic scrutiny. Not only is there no evidence that Joe Biden’s support for removing the former — and notoriously corrupt — prosecutor was related to Hunter Biden’s company, but the timing Giuliani has pushed also doesn’t make sense.
As Bloomberg noted, the investigation into the younger Biden’s company had closed over a year before the former vice president called for the prosecutor’s removal. Added Oliver Bullough, who has covered Ukrainian domestic politics over the past few years, “There is, in short, no there there; [Giuliani and his supporters] are putting two and two together — and coming up with 22.” Even those critical of Biden’s previous efforts in Ukraine, like regional analyst Leonid Bershidsky, have called out Giuliani’s claims as bunk. “The conflict of interest story isn’t worth much on its merits… Americans shouldn’t pay too much attention to the shaky corruption allegations,” Bershidsky wrote.
I know we’ve become numb to the corruption of this Administration, but this story should be the total focus of the political class today. The President is openly asking a foreign government to investigate his political rival. This is next level. https://t.co/pboUJuCPoj
— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) May 10, 2019
As it is, Giuliani’s efforts in Ukraine may have already begun to collapse. In a follow-up story Thursday from the Times, Giuliani’s bizarre quotes help highlight just how quixotic his quest is. “We’re not meddling in an election, we’re meddling in an investigation, which we have a right to do,” Giuliani said.
Democratic lawmakers including Sen. Chris Murphy (CT) were quick to criticize the president’s lawyer for so clearly playing partisan politics in a traditionally bipartisan space — that is, in promoting rule-of-law efforts in former Soviet republics.
But as Giuliani told the Times, his work in Ukraine comes with Trump’s full support.
Giuliani doesn’t always need to touch down in a country to upturn democratic processes. Last August, Giuliani drew condemnation from both Republicans and Democrats after criticizing Romanian authorities for, of all things, being too effective in cracking down on corruption.
In a letter to Klaus Iohannis, the president of Romania, Giuliani came out in support of Romanian officials who had ousted the country’s former top prosecutor — a prosecutor who had specifically targeted Romanian higher-ups accused of corruption.
Rudy Giuliani wrote a letter to Romania’s President advocating AGAINST the country’s anti-corruption institutions. And he failed to note he was acting as a foreign agent on behalf of the thoroughly corrupt Social Democratic leader Liviu Dragnea. <THREAD> https://t.co/tmWWiOJ8ce
— Michael Carpenter (@mikercarpenter) August 31, 2018
Rather than praising the former prosecutor for effectively reining in corruption among Romanian elite, Giuliani publicly sided with those who preferred to gut Romania’s finances, and act with impunity while they did. Describing the prosecutor’s efforts as “excesses made in the name of ‘law enforcement,'” Giuliani called for an “amnesty” for those caught in the former prosecutor’s crosshairs.
Giuliani’s letter was as surprising as it was unprecedented. There was one catch, though: While Trump’s lawyer was calling for Romanian authorities to pull back on anti-corruption efforts, he was also working with one of the lobbyists for a Romanian official caught up in the anti-corruption dragnet. That is, Giuliani was being paid to unravel anti-corruption efforts in Romania — an American NATO ally, and key member of the European Union’s eastern flank. And he did so publicly, and proudly.
For an administration as enmeshed in questions about Russian interference as Trump’s, perhaps you’d think Giuliani would want to keep an eye out for any potential moments of overlap with Russian officials specifically sanctioned by the United States.
You’d be wrong.
Last October, Giuliani ventured to Armenia, where he joined a panel at a conference dedicated to the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). That jaunt would have been notable in and of itself, with Giuliani representing the highest-level American official yet present at an EAEU-related event. But Giuliani didn’t simply attend the event — he also spoke alongside sanctioned Russian official Sergei Glazyev.
Glazyev represents one of the most ultra-nationalistic, and conspiratorial, wings of the Russian officials thus far sanctioned by the United States. In addition to carrying on a long-standing relationship with noted anti-Semite Lyndon LaRouche, Glazyev just this month published an anti-Semitic screed in a neo-fascistic Russian journal, claiming that Ukrainian authorities may want to “cleanse” eastern Ukraine and replace ethnic Russians with Ukraine’s Jewish population.
Little matter for Giuliani. Appearing publicly alongside Glazyev, Giuliani droned on about driver-less cars and electric grids, ranging over topics on which he had little expertise. It was, as one attendee told ThinkProgress, a “total bullshit talk… 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?’”