Trump lawyer Jane Raskin appeared on the Senate floor to offer a lengthy defense of Giuliani’s work, all while emphasizing that he was a “minor player” and a “shiny object” that Democrats were using to distract people.
Raskin summarized the Democrats’ strategy: “If both the law and the facts are against you, present a distraction, emphasize a sensational fact, or perhaps a colorful and controversial public figure who appears on the scene.” She said it was to: “In short, divert attention from the holes in your case.”
She added: “Rudolph W. Giuliani is the House managers’ colorful distraction.”
Raskin said Democrats would have subpoenaed Giuliani if they were serious about getting to the bottom of his actions, ignoring that they did subpoena him for documents related to his Ukraine work, and that he ignored it.
Then came the really strained argument. She criticized them for creating a “false dichotomy” in which they said Giuliani either had to be on official business pursuing U.S. foreign policy, or he was a personal attorney digging up dirt on a political opponent. She said that, in fact, Giuliani’s effort was as a personal attorney, but that it was aimed at clearing his client’s name from the Russia investigation.
“It’s in plain sight, and Mr. Giuliani has told any number of news outlets exactly when and why he became interested in the issue: It had nothing to do with the 2020 election,” Raskin said. “Mayor Giuliani began investigating Ukraine corruption and interference in the 2020 election way back in November of 2018 — a full six months before Vice President Biden announced his candidacy and four months before the release of the Mueller report …”
She added: “As President Trump’s highest-profile defense attorney, the former New York City mayor, often known simply as Rudy, believed the Ukrainians evidence could assist in his defense against the Russian collusion investigation and former special counsel Robert Mueller’s final report.”
And: “So, yes, Mayor Giuliani was President Trump’s personal attorney, but he was not on a political errand.”
First is that Raskin waves off the idea that this was about dirt on Biden by noting that Giuliani began his effort in November 2018, months before Biden launched his campaign. Except that Biden’s potential candidacy was well-known by that point. He had said he was keeping his options open for more than a year before that, and he was even rumored as a candidate in 2016. It didn’t take too much guesswork to wager that Biden — a former two-term vice president — might become Trump’s opponent and that he would be among the most formidable Democrats in the race. There was even a poll in January 2019 showing Biden leading Trump by 22 points.
And second, this explanation might make sense if Giuliani had only pursued Trump’s conspiracy theory about Ukraine interfering in the 2016 election, rather than Russia. That could perhaps be construed as defending his client from findings that he doesn’t like. It does nothing, however, to address the other investigation Giuliani was pursuing: the one involving the Bidens, which has nothing to do with the Russia investigation.
If Giuliani was indeed acting as Trump’s personal lawyer rather than a de facto diplomat, what interest did Trump have — legally speaking — in investigating Burisma and the Bidens? It’s difficult to discern any.
Which is why Giuliani has tried to have it both ways on this. When there have been questions about the propriety of what he’s done, he has emphasized he’s acting as Trump’s personal lawyer. “This isn’t foreign policy,” he told the New York Times in May 2019, emphasizing that the “information will be very, very helpful to my client, and may turn out to be helpful to my government.”
When there have been questions about why he would be targeting the Bidens, though, he has argued it’s about corruption and that the United States has a real interest. “I’m not acting as a lawyer,” he told the Atlantic in September. “I’m acting as someone who has devoted most of his life to straightening out government.”
So which is it? There are basically two options: Giuliani has done both things with either the tacit or express approval of the U.S. government (of which there is little indication) because this is truly about corruption. Or, he is doing these things because they benefit his client. And while it’s possible to discern a nonpolitical benefit for his client from the election conspiracy theory, it’s not when it comes to Burisma and the Bidens. That was either about political gain or alleged corruption. And Giuliani emphasized at the start that these things were about his client.
Perhaps anticipating that her arguments might be difficult to square with Giuliani’s running and often unwieldy commentary, Raskin suggested Monday that he was simply, well, a character.
“The House managers may not like his style,” she said. “You may not like his style, but one might argue that he is everything Clarence Darrow said: A defense lawyer must be outrageous, irreverent, blasphemous, a rogue, a renegade.”
She then hailed him as a success, suggesting he had beaten House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) at every turn — “Mayor Giuliani 4, Mr. Schiff zero,” she summed up.
Then she again suggested he wasn’t all that important to dwell upon.
“But in this trial, in this moment, Mr. Giuliani is just a minor player — that shiny object designed to distract you,” Raskin said. “Senators, I urge you most respectfully: Do not be distracted.
It seems Giuliani isn’t the only one who has been trying to have it both ways.