Rudy Giuliani has a foreign scandal of his very own: Meddling in Romania while on Trump's payroll
President Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, is pushing a debunked conspiracy theory about former Vice President Joe Biden. But he himself appears to have intervened in a foreign anti-corruption effort while being paid by Trump.
Trump admitted this week that he blocked congressionally approved aid to Ukraine days before discussing Biden with the country’s president in a phone call that drew an “urgent” whistleblower complaint. The Biden conspiracy theory had been pushed by Giuliani since the spring, when he shopped a story to the New York Times alleging that Biden improperly interfered in an Ukrainian investigation into an energy company that had employed his son, Hunter Biden.
Though Trump and Giuliani have continued to push this baseless charge for months, Giuliani’s claim was debunked by Ukrainian officials days after he first threatened to fly to Ukraine to get to the bottom of it. In fact, the Ukrainian prosecutor that Biden pushed to get fired had been accused of soliciting bribes and failing to go after corruption. As vice president, Biden was part of a Western consensus to pressure the prosecutor into resigning. By the time Biden got involved, the company his son worked for was no longer under active investigation and Ukrainian prosecutors say there has never been any suggesting of wrongdoing by either Biden.
Giuliani’s involvement is ironic given his own efforts to intervene in anti-corruption efforts in the region, even as he was on Trump’s payroll.
The Washington Post reported last August that Giuliani intervened in an anti-corruption push in Romania, possibly on behalf of a party whose leader is now in prison for corruption.
Giuliani sent a letter to the country’s leaders criticizing their anti-corruption efforts, accusing them of “excesses” under the “pretext of law enforcement.”
Giuliani’s letter came in direct opposition to the State Department, which joined with 11 other countries just months earlier to warn Romania not to take any measures that would hurt its “ability to fight crime or corruption.”
The letter “surprised” the White House, the Post reported. After Giuliani’s letter, the State Department quickly issued a statement praising Romania for “considerable progress in combating corruption and building the effective rule of law” and urged leaders to “continue on this path.”
“Rudy Giuliani does not speak for the U.S. government on foreign policy,” a State Department official told the Post.
“Maybe I should have put in the letter that I’m not representing the president,” Giuliani admitted to the Post after insisting that he sent the letter as a “private citizen.”
Though Giuliani did not say on whose behalf he sent the letter, Liviu Dragnea, the leader of Romania's Social Democrats, successfully pushed to fire anti-corruption prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi, who had been compared to special counsel Robert Mueller and received praise from the likes of late Sen. John McCain, according to the Post.
Dragnea was convicted in June 2018 of abuse of office. In May, he was sentenced to three and a half years in jail.
Dragnea welcomed Giuliani's letter, arguing that the statement from Trump’s lawyer showed that “trust in the Romanian justice system is seriously shaken when it comes to foreign partners.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued an order earlier this month barring Dragnea, who attended Trump’s inauguration in January 2017, from entering the U.S. in the future, citing allegations of “significant corruption.”
Igor Derysh is a New York-based political writer whose work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.