Adding DOJ’s criminal division to the Giuliani probe is sure to place additional scrutiny on William Barr, who as attorney general has final say over all department business. Already, Barr’s reputation has taken hits over his handling of the public rollout on Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, with Democrats complaining he spun the special counsel’s findings earlier this year to give them a pro-Trump flavor.
Giuliani’s troubles aren’t just his alone. He has turned members of the Trump team he’s worked with over the past 18 months into potential witnesses for federal prosecutors, who are trying to unravel the tangled relationships he brought to the mix in advising the president while still juggling an international consulting business that promised proximity to the White House.
“He appears to be a subject, if not a target of an active investigation. So to have him be a part of the legal team would be troublesome to say the least,” said Greg Brower, who served as the FBI’s top liaison to Congress until 2018. “At best, it’s a messy situation and more likely it’s just completely dysfunctional.”
Notably, Giuliani was not at the White House earlier this week when his fellow Trump lawyers met with the president for a brief impeachment strategy session. Heeding concerns long vocalized by many of the president’s aides and outside allies that his media interviews were hurting the president, Giuliani has made no prime-time television network appearances over the past two weeks.
Giuliani’s only public comment in recent days was a cryptic Wednesday evening tweet, in which he said, “everything I did was to discover evidence to defend my client against false charges.”
The pullback comes as Democratic impeachment investigators circle Giuliani. They’ve collected testimony for several weeks from witnesses who put the president’s lawyer at the center of a campaign to leverage U.S. military and diplomatic might in exchange for foreign assistance from Ukraine that could help Trump win a second term.
Lawmakers’ hyperfocus on Giuliani prompted a decision by Trump’s legal team to sideline its most famous member from handling any Ukraine matters as part of the president’s defense should Democrats advance a specific article of impeachment addressing the subject, according to a person familiar with the lawyers’ strategy.
Giuliani did not respond to questions for this story. But in a series of text messages earlier this month, he downplayed his Ukraine work and insisted he could continue in his role as a Trump lawyer amid all of the scrutiny.
“I was never in Ukraine at all and my investigatory work was done when it was still possible Mueller would charge Russian collusion. Almost all of it was published in the Hill, so [Trump] and everyone else was aware of it,” Giuliani said in an Oct. 18 message. “Hardly anything not public.”
“Since the public record is more extensive than what I did, he and all of you probably think I did more than I really did,” Giuliani added then.
A few days earlier, on Oct. 12, Giuliani argued that his role on the Trump legal team shouldn’t be disrupted just because he’s resisting a Democratic-approved subpoena for documents.
“You can’t get a lawyer replaced by sending them a questionable request not for testimony but documents some or all of which are clearly covered by attorney client privilege,” Giuliani wrote. “At most it could be raised as a bar to participating in that proceeding but not general representation.”
“Finally the only reason they are doing this is to target me, as I knew they would, because I am making pay a very heavy price for this process devoid of even a fig leaf of due process. Supreme Court decision have held that due process applies even to Congressional hearings,” he added.
DOJ officials have declined comment for weeks about any specific investigation into the president’s lawyer, who during the Reagan administration served first as the nation’s No. 3 law enforcement official and then as the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.
But they’ve sent plenty of signals that Giuliani may want to lawyer up himself — a back-channel effort has been underway for more than a week to help find him an attorney — as speculation swirls that he could face charges on everything from violating federal statutes dealing with bribery, foreign lobbying registration and disclosure to making false statements to government officials.
Jay Sekulow, the longest-serving member of the Trump legal team, rejected the idea that Giuliani was in any kind of legal jeopardy. He also dismissed questions that Giuliani had put the rest of the president’s outside lawyers into any kind of bind.
“We have no concerns about any of that,” Sekulow told POLITICO. “He’s a member in good standing of the president’s legal team.”