Rudy Giuliani is Donald Trump’s real secretary of state

Lloyd Green
Photograph: Charles Krupa/AP

From the looks of things, Rudy Giuliani has been the real secretary of state from Day One of the Trump administration. From Ukraine to Turkey to Iran to Foggy Bottom, Giuliani has left his mark. Who cares if Mike Pompeo now sits in the same office once occupied by Hillary Clinton and John Kerry.

“America’s Mayor” has emerged as the Zelig of the Trump presidency, appearing anywhere and everywhere, the only thing missing being feathers sprouting from his head. As to whether Giuliani has truly served the presidency’s true interests, as opposed to simply playing Trump’s TV lawyer, that’s a whole other story.

Related: Rudy Giuliani's quest for dirt on Biden via Ukraine – a timeline

On Thursday, the justice department charged Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, two of Giuliani’s clients who are embroiled in Ukraine and the hunt for Hunter Biden, with felony campaign finance violations and conspiracy.

For good measure, the trio, Giuliani, Parnas and Fruman, have already announced that they would refuse to cooperate with the House’s impeachment inquiry. Apparently, Giuliani’s grasp has finally exceeded his reach.

But it doesn’t end there. On Wednesday Bloomberg reported that Trump had pressed Rex Tillerson, who at the time was nominally secretary of state, to push the justice department into killing an investigation into Reza Zarrab, a Giuliani client, for allegedly violating sanctions designed to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Specifically, in a February 2017 Oval Office meeting, Trump had invited Giuliani, and Michael Mukasey, Bush 43’s attorney general and a former federal judge, to lobby Tillerson on that score.

Ultimately, Tillerson declined to lend a hand, Giuliani would fill our television screens, Zarrab would be prosecuted and convicted, and Mukasey’s son, Marc, would come to represent Trump in his bids to keep his tax returns shrouded. There was something for everyone – think family business.

Way back when, Mukasey had served as a mentor to Giuliani, and at the 2016 Republican convention, Mukasey had trashed Hillary Clinton – after first playing never-Trumper: “For a hint of why a Donald Trump presidency would imperil our national security …” Not any more, time flies.

Along with supreme court justice, secretary of state was the job Rudy coveted, and it was the job Trump wanted to give him but didn’t or couldn’t, according to Michael Wolff’s 2018 blockbuster, Fire & Fury: “The resistance to Giuliani from the Trump circle derived from the same reason Trump was inclined to give him the job – Giuliani had Trump’s ear and wouldn’t let go.”

For good measure, Wolff volunteered: “There were also whispers from the staff ‘about his health and stability.’” To be sure, they were the same whispers that were echoed at a pre-inaugural lunch held at a Manhattan steakhouse by veterans of Giuliani’s time at city hall, and those with significant ties to the current administration.

More than once Giuliani’s antics have left Trump’s backers with a sense of agita. Last month, as the winds of impeachment began to blow strong, Giuliani did an about-face on cable in a matter of moments. After saying that he didn’t ask Ukraine to investigate Biden, Giuliani quickly reversed course and told CNN’s Chris Cuomo that he actually had.

Like Trump, Giuliani can engender a sense of disappointment and disgust among those who know him best

Just days later, a letter accompanying a congressional subpoena to Giuliani used his own words against him: “For example, on September 19, 2019, you admitted on national television that you personally asked the government of Ukraine to target Vice President Biden. During an interview on CNN, Chris Cuomo asked you, “So, you did ask Ukraine to look into Joe Biden?’ You responded, ‘Of course I did.’”

Like Trump, Giuliani can engender a sense of disappointment and disgust among those who know him best. Ken Frydman, a New York-based public relations whiz and a veteran of Giuliani’s 1993 mayoral race, recently wrote: “The man I worked for in 1993 is not the man who now lies for Donald Trump.”

Frydman isn’t alone. As another Giuliani alumnus told the Guardian, “There is tremendous disappointment that a man we once greatly admired and who was worthy of that admiration has become a lapdog to a conspiracy theorist president.” The aide explained: “It’s heartbreaking in so many ways because – at his core – for better or worse, Rudy was always his own man. Sadly, he no longer is.”

Maybe. Or not.

But Giuliani is learning, as others have before, there is no brass ring when it comes to Trump. Giuliani wanted to be tapped as secretary of state, and it looks like he got more than he bargained for. Globetrotting has begotten congressional scrutiny and the media’s glare.

Once remembered as a face of courage amid the ruins of 9/11, Giuliani has now been forced to lawyer up as the prospect of impeachment tightens it grip around Trump and his minions. As the saying goes, answered prayers are the most dangerous.

  • An attorney in New York, Lloyd Green was opposition research counsel to George HW Bush’s 1988 campaign and served in the Department of Justice from 1990 to 1992