Giuliani has specialized in the growth market of kleptocrats hoping to avoid jail. He has represented a Romanian real-estate magnate imprisoned for a shady land deal, and a Turkish gold trader accused of funneling money to Iran. Then there’s his mystery client suspected of foreign bribery, whose case he discussed with the head of the Department of Justice’s criminal division. Giuliani described this client to The New York Times as “very, very sensitive.” These clients seem to hire Giuliani not for his courtroom skills or strategic acumen, but in the hopes that his prestige and bureaucratic skill can rescue them from prosecution.
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To mock Giuliani is to overlook his success. There’s now a definitive narrative of how he orchestrated the removal of an American ambassador. Phone logs show that he had a level of access that legendary power brokers such as Clark Clifford and Robert Strauss would envy. He routinely spoke with the likes of the secretary of state and national security adviser. If you were to aggregate the Rolodexes of every lobbying shop in Washington into one mega-firm, it would never be able to blanket the administration like Giuliani has.
Giuliani supplements his inside game with a potent media strategy. In the form of The Hill’s John Solomon, Giuliani had a columnist who apparently parroted his talking points. (Solomon even forwarded Giuliani a copy of one piece hours before its publication.) Through his appearances on Fox News, he has the opportunity to demonstrate his undying loyalty to the couch potato in the West Wing. These television hits also allow him to mold the thinking of the Republican base. He can shape a political climate so that his phone calls and meetings have the highest likelihood of success.
But what makes Giuliani such a dangerous figure is that one can never be sure whom he is representing. Is he advocating on behalf of the president, or an unnamed client? This is a blurry line that he actively exploits, such as the time he solicited the business of the king of Bahrain—now a client. When he first arrived in the country, state media described him as leading a “high-level United States delegation.”
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His efforts in Ukraine are also a confusing mélange of private interests and presidential mission. The men he enlisted to dig up dirt on Joe Biden—Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman—paid him $500,000. Pause to consider the oddness of that transaction: The operatives he dispatched to run a political errand, who traveled the world on his behalf, were paying him for the privilege.
Or take the corrupt Ukrainian prosecutor general, Yuriy Lutsenko, who concocted conspiracy theories about his archenemy, Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. These were theories that Giuliani disseminated widely, and that provided pretext for her ousting. According to The Wall Street Journal, Giuliani drew up an agreement whereby Lutsenko would pay him $250,000. Even though Giuliani ultimately shelved the idea of a monetary relationship with Lutsenko, the fact that he considered it is highly revealing.