Rudy Giuliani, President Trump's personal attorney, says the president should not back away from investigating Joe Biden even after Trump's expected acquittal Wednesday by the U.S. Senate.
"Absolutely, 100%," Giuliani told NPR's Steve Inskeep in an interview Tuesday. "I would have no problem with him doing it. In fact, I'd have a problem with him not doing it. I think he would be saying that Joe Biden can get away with selling out the United States, making us a fool in the Ukraine."
The former New York City mayor has emerged as a pivotal figure in the events that ultimately resulted in Trump's impeachment in December by the House of Representatives and his Senate trial, which will almost certainly end Wednesday with Trump's acquittal.
Giuliani called the president's expected acquittal "a total vindication."
But while all 53 Republican senators are expected to vote to acquit Trump, some, including Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, have expressed reservations about Trump's actions, saying it was "inappropriate" for him to ask a foreign leader to investigate his political opponent and to withhold United States aid to encourage that investigation.
Giuliani pushed back against that idea, saying Alexander and other GOP senators who have expressed similar reservations don't "understand the facts."
"Lamar is wrong, and Lamar is a good friend of mine, and he's a fine man except he doesn't know all the facts," Giuliani said. He "only knows half the facts; a lot of them distorted."
At the center of this is the July 25 phone call between Trump and Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the Ukrainian president. Democrats say Trump asked Zelenskiy to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter in exchange for a release of suspended military aid and a White House visit. Trump calls the phone call "perfect."
In Giuliani's telling, "the whole Ukrainian thing is misrepresented. The Democrats did do a good job of spinning it to 'he's trying to hurt Joe Biden.' It has nothing to do with Joe Biden."
Having said that, Giuliani proceeded to list what he said were Biden's misdeeds, including his own holding up of aid for Ukraine.
As vice president, Biden held back aid to Ukraine as part of official U.S. policy to remove prosecutor Viktor Shokin, who was widely seen as ineffective against corruption. At a 2018 event, Biden even boasted about doing so. However, the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and others also backed the firing of Shokin.
"There was a broad-based consensus that he was a typical Ukraine prosecutor who lived a lifestyle far in excess of his government salary, who never prosecuted anybody known for having committed a crime, and having covered up crimes that were known to have been committed," George Kent, the senior U.S. diplomat, testified during last year's House impeachment inquiry.
Republicans have pointed to the fact that Hunter Biden had been on the board of Ukrainian gas company Burisma. Shokin was investigating Burisma for alleged wrongdoing, but well before Hunter Biden joined the company's board. And Ukraine's Western partners had long demanded Shokin's ouster.
Giuliani says there is a long record of corruption orchestrated by Biden that goes back at least as far back as two decades. Biden's role in Ukraine, he said, needs further investigation.
"I believe that it would be one of the great corrupt events in American history if this case is not investigated at the highest levels of two governments" — the United States and Ukraine, he said.
Giuliani's own role in the Ukraine affair has come under scrutiny. Multiple witnesses testified during the House impeachment inquiry last year that Giuliani pressed the new Ukrainian government to investigate the Democrats and the Bidens. Indeed, Giuliani said he was still seeking "more information" about Biden's activities in Ukraine. When asked whether he was doing that on the authority of the president, he replied: "He hasn't told me not to do it."
Giuliani declined to say whether he had turned over any of this material to the Justice Department.
"I can't answer that. it would be privileged material," he told NPR's Ryan Lucas in the same interview. "I can't tell you if I did or didn't do something with the Justice Department."
Last week, The New York Times published details from former national security adviser John Bolton's upcoming book, alleging that Trump told Bolton to call Ukraine's president to encourage him to meet with Giuliani.
Giuliani has previously denied there was anything illegal about such an ask and has noted that he had made clear in his correspondence with Ukraine's leader that he was acting as Trump's personal lawyer — not in his role as president. Ultimately, no such meeting ever occurred.
Lev Parnas, a Giuliani associate, has also been feeding information to House Democrats that he says lays bare Trump and Giuliani's actions in Ukraine. Parnas, who was indicted on charges related to campaign finance violations in a separate case, has vowed to tell the truth and has left the door open to cooperating with prosecutors. Giuliani said he's not concerned by his former associates actions.
"If he flipped, it's because he doesn't know anything," he said. "I didn't do anything wrong. I did what a lawyer is supposed to do for his client."
As he put it in another part of the interview: "I do it because — and I know it's self-serving as hell, but it's true — I have a great sense of justice."
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
Tomorrow, the Senate will vote on two articles of impeachment against President Trump. Today NPR sat down in New York City with a man very much in the middle of the Ukraine scandal - the president's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani. NPR justice correspondent Ryan Lucas was in New York for the interview. He is now in our studio here.
RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: Hi there.
KELLY: All right, so Giuliani's specific role in the Ukraine scandal, if I can boil it down to a sentence, has been pushing the Ukrainian government to investigate Democrats. The Senate votes tomorrow on these two articles of impeachment against the president. What does Giuliani have to say about that?
LUCAS: Well, we sat down with him this morning at his apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Our colleague, Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep, led this interview. And we asked Giuliani about whether he views what, at this point, is pretty certain to be a Senate vote to acquit the president - whether he views that as vindication. And here's what Giuliani said.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
RUDY GIULIANI: Absolutely - it's a total vindication. Some of the senators know why they're doing it. Some of the senators are doing it because the president is completely innocent. He did exactly the right thing, exactly what an American president should do.
LUCAS: Now, not all Republican senators view an acquittal in quite that same light. Senator Lamar Alexander, for example, has described the president's actions as inappropriate...
LUCAS: ...And has said that he hopes that Trump won't do something similar in the future. Giuliani - he pushed back on the notion that the president acted inappropriately at all.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
GIULIANI: No, Lamar is wrong. And Lamar is a good friend of mine. And he's a fine man, except he doesn't know all the facts. (Laughter) He only knows half the facts.
KELLY: Ryan, Giuliani's sounding very confident there that he has all the facts. But with the trial drawing to a close tomorrow, is Giuliani - is he moving on?
LUCAS: Not at all, not at all - the Senate may be ready to have Ukraine in the rearview mirror, but Giuliani says he is not done. He says he's going to keep on investigating. Here's a bit of an exchange that he had with Steve about that.
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GIULIANI: Am I still investigating? Yes, I'm still...
STEVE INSKEEP, BYLINE: Are you still seeking more information?
GIULIANI: I get more information.
GIULIANI: A lot of it comes to me.
INSKEEP: Are you doing that on the authority of the president?
GIULIANI: Well, he hasn't told me not to do it. He hasn't told me not to do it.
LUCAS: The president never told him not to do it. Now, we asked the White House about this - whether the president wants Giuliani to continue investigating Biden. The White House has not responded. Giuliani recently launched a podcast of his own. He's using that to present what he says is the evidence that he's gathered. Now, he claims that this is a clear-cut page - a clear-cut case of wrongdoing by Biden. I asked him in that case whether he's provided his information to the Justice Department so that it could look into his allegations and what he's collected. And here's how he answered that.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
GIULIANI: I can't answer that. I'm not - I would - it would be privileged material. I can't tell you if I did or didn't do something with the Justice Department. The Justice Department would not be happy if I answered that question.
LUCAS: Now, I asked the Justice Department about that. It declined to comment. But during the impeachment inquiry, U.S. officials who testified in House hearings said that they had no knowledge - no knowledge - of an official Justice Department request to help Ukraine for investigating the Bidens.
KELLY: Separate from the Bidens, separate from President Trump, does Giuliani seem worried about his own potential legal troubles? A couple of his associates in the Ukraine affair - Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman - they have been indicted - a separate matter. But still, is Giuliani worried?
LUCAS: He is not. Parnas and Fruman, of course, are two individuals who helped Giuliani gather information in Ukraine. Parnas has turned over some of the materials that he gathered, some of the - his communications and whatnot to Congress. Those were cited in the impeachment trial. Parnas has said that he wants to tell the truth. He hasn't ruled out possibly cooperating with federal prosecutors in Manhattan. And it's those same prosecutors who are scrutinizing Giuliani. Now, Giuliani says, no, he's not worried about Parnas. He says Parnas doesn't know anything. And Giuliani says that he, himself, hasn't done anything wrong. And Giuliani says that he hasn't been contacted by prosecutors at this point. He says he's offered to sit down with them and answer any questions they might have. But he says they haven't taken up - taken him up on it thus far.
Thank you, Ryan.
LUCAS: Thank you.
KELLY: NPR's Ryan Lucas - he was in New York today for that interview with President Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. Lots more of that conversation with Steve Inskeep; we'll have it on tomorrow's Morning Edition.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.