Despite the impeachment inquiry’s laserlike focus on Giuliani, Trump has given no indication he intends to cut ties with the former New York City mayor any time soon — even if Giuliani’s actions in Ukraine become the central driver of Trump’s impeachment.
“He may seem a little rough around the edges sometimes, but he is also a great guy and wonderful lawyer,” Trump said Saturday.
In contrast to his treatment of Giuliani, Trump bashed his former attorney and fixer Michael Cohen after Cohen became embroiled in legal trouble in part for work he did for the president. The break began when Cohen turned on the president, ultimately blaming his former client for landing him in prison over campaign-finance violations that prosecutors say Trump directed.
But some Democrats say it’s only a matter of time until Trump treats Giuliani to the same fate.
“We’ve seen this movie before, with Michael Cohen,” Rouda said. “Giuliani’s going to get thrown under the bus. The president’s going to make it sound like ‘I didn’t tell him to do this or that, he was rogue, he went out on his own.’ And we all know that’s not true, but I think we can all lay a bet down on how this story ends. And that’s what you’re going to see.”
Democrats seeking to substantiate Trump’s intimate involvement with Giuliani’s Ukraine efforts have been bolstered by a parade of witnesses detailing the extent to which Trump sought to run his Ukraine policy through Giuliani, who was pressing Kyiv to launch probes of Trump’s political rivals. That body of testimony is set to grow next week, when Bill Taylor, the top American diplomat in Ukraine, testifies on Tuesday, in addition to some State Department and Pentagon officials later in the week.
One witness who has already testified for nine hours, Gordon Sondland, underscored the “nexus” that Democrats see between Trump and Giuliani. Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, said he was ultimately “disappointed” with Trump’s desire to involve Giuliani.
“It was apparent to all of us that the key to changing the president’s mind on Ukraine was Mr. Giuliani,” Sondland told investigators, according to a copy of his opening statement obtained by POLITICO.
Perhaps more importantly, though, Republicans have indicated they’re uncomfortable with Giuliani’s behavior toward Ukraine and have questioned his methods and mission. Though Trump’s allies are careful to pin any questionable conduct on Giuliani alone, Democrats see their unwillingness to defend Giuliani’s efforts in Ukraine as an opening to tie potential wrongdoing to the president.
Republicans, though, are giving Trump the benefit of the doubt, saying they’re not sure that the president had full awareness of Giuliani’s actions.
“I don’t know if the president knew everything that Rudy was saying and doing. And if I was asked to make an assumption, I would say that he didn’t know,” said Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.), a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee.
But even some of the president’s closest allies have suggested that Giuliani’s involvement wasn’t above-board. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) distanced himself from the “Crowdstrike” theory that both Giuliani and Trump have pursued and amplified — the debunked assertion that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 election.
“I’ve never been a ‘Crowdstrike’ fan,” Meadows told POLITICO, adding: “I would not, on my dime, send a private attorney looking for some server in a foreign country.”
But Meadows said it was understandable that Trump, who feels aggrieved that he has been investigated for ties to Russia, would listen to Giuliani.
“When you get falsely accused of a number of things that are not facts, you’re willing to listen to a whole lot of things that may have been a problem,” Meadows said.
But attempts by Republicans seeking to separate Trump from Giuliani were complicated Thursday when Trump’s acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney declared that the White House withheld military assistance from Ukraine in part because Trump wanted assurances that the country’s new president would probe the debunked Crowdstrike matter. Mulvaney later walked back the comments.
There are indications, though, that some House Republicans are beginning to question Trump’s handling of Ukraine.
“It’s painful to me to see this kind of amateur diplomacy riding roughshod over our State Department apparatus,” said Rep. Francis Rooney (R-Fla.), a former ambassador and a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee. Rooney on Friday indicated that he was open to supporting impeachment but is awaiting more witness interviews.
“I want to get the facts and do the right thing,” he added. “Because I’ll be looking at my children a lot longer than I’m looking at anybody in this building.”
Heather Caygle, Melanie Zanona and Sarah Ferris contributed to this report.