I know that I have complained mightily about Politico’s political reporting, but today’s opinion piece on law and order from Renato Marrioti makes a cogent and succinct argument that Guiliani’s legal trouble ensnares Donald Trump. Given all the shit that Guiliani has been into, it is difficult to keep it all straight, but Marrioti focuses on the latest developments in Guiliani’s involvement with Ukraine and the Russians to provide political dirt on Joe and Hunter Biden. And Marrioti explains it for those us not steeped in the legal system.
- Guiliani is being investigated for violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act or FARA. Republicans are trying to argue that violating FARA is the equivalent of an administrative “error” or getting a simple speeding ticket. Mariotti does point out that in the past the government didn’t do dick to enforce this law, but…
Curiously, the crime for which Giuliani is under investigation — violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which requires agents of foreign governments who lobby U.S. officials to disclose their relationship with the foreign government — has been prosecuted only rarely over the decades. But FARA prosecutions spiked during the Trump administration, including the high-profile conviction of former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort and former Republican finance chair Elliott Broidy. (An associate of former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn was also indicted for a FARA violation, but the conviction was later overturned.) That group of FARA prosecutions led President Joe Biden to vow on the campaign trail to increase the use of FARA if he were elected, saying there should be no lobbying on behalf of foreign governments outside regular diplomatic channels.
Not noted by Mariotti is the rampant hypocrisy of Republicans on violating FARA. How many decades have we heard Republicans SCREAM about the Clinton’s taking some kind of foreign money? Usually those smears are against the Clinton Foundation. Well, if any money or assistance the Clinton’s may or may not have obtained from foreign governments or actors is so awful, why is OK for Republicans to do the bidding of foreigners?
- Mariotti speculates that Guiliani will state that he was not working for any foreigners or was a foreign lobbyist because he didn’t sign a contract. There is no legally bindng contract, so how can poor old Guiliani be guilty of lobbying the government as a foreign lobbyist? Except…
Thus far, Giuliani has tried to hide behind mere technicalities, arguing that he didn’t have a written contract with a foreign official or oligarch. He won’t get away with that in court. What matters is whether he was an agent of a foreign government, not whether his relationship with that foreign government was memorialized in writing. You can’t avoid FARA requirements by failing to write down the details of your arrangement with a foreign government.
- And if technicalities do not work for Guiliani, he screams that this is all “legal thuggery.” There was nothing to base those search warrants on, and as for the government, “You got nothin’.” Mariotti explains how search warrants are not just done on the whim of a prosecuter and judge. There is already evidence of criminal wrongdoing that the search warrant was based upon. And if the government is searching the records of a lawyer, it is almost a certainty that indictments are coming. It is not a question of “If,” but of “when.”
- So unless Guiliani does a plea deal, he is going to trial. What to do if you are Guiliani? Mariotti says that Guiliani will first claim that he was not working for the Ukrainians or even the Russians. Nope. Guiliani was working for Donald Trump, so how could he possibly have violated FARA? However, this would require testimony from Donald Trump to back up Guiliani’s defense. I can hear the laughter now…
Unfortunately for Giuliani, Trump is not known for sticking his neck out for disgraced former aides, particularly if doing so would involve personal embarrassment or potential liability. Given how Trump distanced himself from former lawyer Michael Cohen when he faced similar peril, it is hard to imagine the former president taking an oath to tell the truth and subjecting himself to withering cross-examination that could embarrass him at best or expose him to potential liability at worst. (Trump’s record of lying under oath in civil suit depositions is well documented.)
And Trump is not into pleading the Fifth Amendment because as he has always put it, “Pleading the Fifth means you are guilty!” And no way is the Orange Baboon guilty of ANYTHING! So like the Soup Nazi, “NO Testimony for you Rudy!”
- There is the comparison of Michael Cohen to Rudy Guiliani, but there is a big difference. When Cohen went down and was abandoned by Trump, his orange babooness was safely ensconced in the DOJ womb of “You cannot prosecute a sitting president!” Mariotti points out that Trump cannot offer any protection to Guiliani NOW.
The saga of one-time Trump legal fixer Michael Cohen, who turned on his boss after he pleaded guilty for election finance violations and fraud, is instructive here. Despite Cohen’s assertion that Trump knew of the violations, the president was protected from prosecution while he was in office under Department of Justice guidelines. Now that Trump is a civilian, those guidelines do not protect him, and he has to be concerned about his own liability going forward.