Rudy Giuliani is President Trump’s personal attorney, but Trump isn’t his only client. The former mayor of New York City now is trying to undermine anti-corruption initiatives in another client, the country of Romania.
Romania has a history of rampant corruption, with many prominent lawmakers using their power for personal gain. In recent years, the Eastern European country has actually been very successful at rooting out graft. But Giuliani believes those efforts — which the United States actually supports — have gone too far.
In a letter to Romanian President Klaus Iohannis — publicly shared in the country’s media — Giuliani accuses Romania’s National Anticorruption Directorate of “excesses” such as intimidating judges, attorneys, and witnesses and wiretapping phones. He believes several innocent people have gone to jail and that amnesty should be granted to anyone convicted as a result of these so-called excesses. He even goes so far as to call for an independent commission of international judges to investigate and reform the anti-corruption efforts.
Giuliani isn’t the only person calling to tamp down the anti-corruption efforts. In fact, the directorate’s chief prosecutor, Laura Codruta Kovesi — a figure some in Romania have compared to the U.S.’s Robert Mueller — was fired from her job last month over accusations of overstepping her authority. This has led to major protests of the ongoing corruption, including some that have turned violent.
But there’s actually broad international support for Romania’s anti-corruption efforts, including from the United States. The State Department did not comment directly on Giuliani’s letter aside from clarifying that “Rudy Giuliani does not speak for the U.S. government on foreign policy.” It did, however, recirculate a June statement from 12 countries, including the U.S., rejecting calls to scale back Romania’s efforts to fight crime or corruption. “Romania has shown considerable progress in combating corruption and building effective rule of law,” the statement read. “We encourage Romanians to continue on this path.”
Giuliani claims he sent the letter at the behest of a global consulting firm run by former FBI director Louis Freeh. It’s not exactly clear why, or on whose behalf, Freeh wanted Giuliani to send the letter. Both the Washington Post and New York Times noted that Freeh’s company represents Gabriel Popviciu, a Romanian businessman sentenced last year to seven years in prison for fraud and corruption in a real-estate deal.
When asked why Giuliani was directly contradicting U.S. policy, he claimed he was functioning as a “private citizen” and “an independent lawyer and consultant.” He likewise claimed not to be fully aware of Washington’s position, framing it as a “domestic matter” — even though he is certainly not domestic to Romania himself. “Maybe I should have put in the letter that I’m not representing the president,” he said, offering assurances Romanian officials knew as much.
Despite his advocacy on behalf of oversea clients, Giuliani has not registered as a foreign agent with the Justice Department because he claims he is not directly lobbying the U.S. government. This is despite the fact that he is the president’s personal attorney and speaks to him regularly. White House officials are not privy to those calls, which Trump takes in private in the residence.
While Giuliani’s letter has been praised by those who have been caught in their own corruption scandals, others have criticized his interference. Romanian entrepreneur Sebastian Burduja responded with his own open letter calling on Giuliani to clarify his representations and conflicts of interest. He described Giuliani’s letter as being “based on a seriously flawed understanding of the situation in Romania” and pointed out that it got only one thing right: no one would want to invest in a country where the law can be bent by corruption.