This morning on NPR, I discussed the latest controversy triggered by President Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. We have previously discussed the often conflicting statements made by Rudy Giuliani in this representation of President Donald Trump and the failure to follow a type of legal Hippocratic oath to first do no harm to one’s client. Last night Giuliani triggered another firestorm of criticism on CNN after he first denied speaking to Ukraine about investigating Joe Biden and then immediately contradicted himself and said that he did.
The interview with Chris Cuomo seemed at times unhinged and uncontrolled. The entire interview is below.
Reports indicate that the subject of the whistleblow complaint found credible and “urgent” by Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz was the Ukraine. Specifically, it is alleged that Trump called the head of Ukraine to pressure the country to investigate Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.
In fairness to the White House, Hunter Biden was responsible for highly disturbing conflicts of interest while his father was Vice President. He made a huge about of money in Ukraine and China and even conducted business in China when accompanying his father to China. The New York Times and others have said that, at a minimum, Hunter Biden presented a serious appearance of conflict of interest for Biden.
However, the merits are not at issue on those allegations. The issue is whether Trump used $250 million in withheld military aid to pressure a foreign leader to investigate his political opponent.
For his part, Giuliani first said that he did not ask for Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and then immediately said that he did.
Cuomo asked “Did you ask the Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden?”
Giuliani responded “No, actually I didn’t. I asked Ukraine to investigate the allegations that there was interference in the election of 2016 by the Ukrainians for the benefit of Hillary Clinton for which there already…”
Cuomo then asked “Your never asked anything about Hunter Biden? You never asked anything about Joe Biden to the prosecutor?” Cuomo pressed.
Giuliani then said “The only thing I asked is to get to the bottom of how it was that the guy who was appointed dismissed the case against Antac.”
Cuomo then correctly noted “So you did ask Ukraine to look into Joe Biden.”
“Of course I did,” Giuliani responded.
Giuliani then says that CNN would cover up the proof of Biden’s corruption, but when asked for the proof, Giuliani declares that he would not show CNN the proof because it would “just cover it up.” That all seems utterly incomprehensible.
Ok, it is another misstep, but the more serious question is the looming separation of powers fight over this call. This is a classic executive privilege context but hardly the classic executive privilege conversation. If true, this would be self-dealing with $250 million in military aid to try to get an investigation into one’s political opponents. It is ironic since Trump has long objected to the Obama Administration using the FBI to investigate him.
There are good arguments on both sides in any court fight over this conversation. However, executive privilege, as shown in Nixon v. United States, can be overcome by congressional oversight needs. Self-dealing is an abuse of office, which was part of the second article of impeachment against Richard Nixon.
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