Barring a political earthquake, Donald Trump will today become the third U.S. president to be impeached by the full House of Representatives. The next step is a trial in the Senate, where debate is already underway on whether to call witnesses.
My vote: Give us witnesses.
Democrats seeking impeachment and Republicans fighting it still dispute the facts of what Trump was seeking in Ukraine and why. Witnesses who defied House subpoenas might provide answers if they can be brought before the Senate.
And the first witness should be Trump’s loquacious personal attorney, Rudolph W. Giuliani, since he started this scandal in the first place.
It was Giuliani, defending Trump against never-proven allegations of collusion with Russia, who spotted an opportunity to switch the focus to Ukraine.
It was Giuliani who embraced Moscow’s propaganda that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 presidential campaign.
It was Giuliani who asked corrupt prosecutors in Kyiv if they could help him amass evidence to suggest that Joe Biden acted corruptly as vice president to protect his son Hunter’s ill-advised job with a Ukrainian energy firm.
It was Giuliani who first asked Ukrainian officials if they would announce an investigation of Biden because, he later explained, that would be “very, very helpful to my client,” Trump.
How do we know this? Because Giuliani hasn’t merely admitted most of it, he’s bragged about it.
He knows Trump’s role in the affair because they’ve been in direct communication the whole time. Giuliani would be a terrific witness — except, perhaps, for his tendency to make wild charges without real evidence.
“Attorney” doesn’t begin to capture what Giuliani does for Trump. The former New York mayor doesn’t do much courtroom work, though the president and his New York company have plenty of legal problems to tend.
Instead, he’s Trump’s private investigator — a personal gumshoe, much like Christopher Steele, the former British spy who compiled a dossier on then-candidate Trump’s alleged misadventures in Russia.
Giuliani is an opposition researcher for Trump’s reelection campaign, compiling allegations against Biden, a leading candidate for the Democratic nomination.
On his own time, he’s an influence broker; his access to Trump is his shiniest calling card. He has sold his services to foreign billionaires with U.S. legal trouble, a quick but expensive channel to the president’s ear.
In 2017, Giuliani met with Trump to plead the case of Reza Zarrab, an Iranian Turkish gold trader charged with illegally funneling gold and cash to Iran. Despite Trump’s reported sympathy, the Justice Department refused to drop the case, and Zarrab pleaded guilty.
In 2018, Giuliani met Lev Parnas, a Ukrainian American businessman whose company bore the splendid name of Fraud Guarantee. Parnas was looking for help in landing a contract to export U.S. natural gas to Ukraine.
Giuliani, in turn, wanted help investigating Hunter Biden, who had collected $50,000 a month as a board member of a Ukrainian natural gas company called Burisma.
Parnas introduced Giuliani to two former Ukrainian prosecutors who had lost their jobs amid U.S. complaints about corruption; one of them was fired after Biden demanded it.
The two ex-prosecutors were quick to tell Giuliani that the real scandal in Ukraine was not their conduct, but Hunter Biden’s former job at Burisma — and the rest is history.
Giuliani, a former U.S. attorney, has taken their charges and a collection of purported Burisma documents and woven them into an unsupported theory that Joe Biden was involved in several federal crimes.
“Joe Biden was in a multimillion-dollar corrupt scheme” that included “bribery,” Giuliani charged on Fox News.
On Twitter, Giuliani claimed to have obtained “clear doc[umentary] proof of money laundering by Burisma and Bidens,” although he has never shown any proof.
And in an interview with the New Yorker, he promised more charges, including a truly bizarre allegation that Biden — not the Kremlin, as U.S. intelligence agencies all agree — participated in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s computers in 2016.
“They may be true, they may be false,” he said of his assertions.
Consider that for a moment. The president’s personal attorney, who visited the White House last week, is publicly retailing smears he hasn’t bothered to check out. That’s the definition of mudslinging.
How does Trump feel about that? “He knows what he is doing,” the president told reporters Monday. “He’s a very great crime fighter…. He’s going to go make a report, I think, to the attorney general and to Congress.”
So Giuliani hasn’t just conducted private diplomacy for the president. He’s acting like the FBI as well.
That’s why he needs to be a witness — either in the Senate trial or in congressional hearings later. Congress has a right to know what Giuliani has been doing in the president’s name.
After the election, Giuliani wanted to be secretary of State — but he’s landed a better deal. He enjoys power without responsibility. Best of all, he can take on private clients and make money on the side.
And as shadow secretary of State, he isn’t accountable to Congress or the public.
But the Senate can fix that. Give Rudy a chance to put up or shut up. Just make sure you put him under oath.