Trump trial team detours into a defense of Rudy Giuliani

Donald Trump’s legal team took a detour during Monday’s impeachment trial to mount a vigorous if tangential defense of the president’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani, whom House impeachment managers have described as a key figure in the pressure campaign against Ukraine.

Trump lawyer Jane Raskin downplayed Giuliani’s role as an unofficial presidential envoy to the Ukraine government, while lauding him as a “national hero” for his leadership of New York City after 9/11.

“In this trial, in this moment, Mr. Giuliani is just a minor player, that shiny object designed to distract you,” Trump lawyer Jane Raskin said on the Senate floor. “Senators, I urge you most respectfully, do not be distracted.”

On the July 25 phone call that sparked the impeachment inquiry, Trump directed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to meet with Giuliani regarding the investigations Trump sought into former Vice President Joe Biden and Ukraine’s supposed role in influencing the 2016 election. But Giuliani’s efforts in Ukraine on Trump’s behalf stretched back at least a year earlier to a campaign to get the U.S. ambassador to Kiev fired.

Still, Raskin painted Giuliani as a sideshow.

Trump legal counsel Jane Raskin and Rudy Giuliani. (Photos: Senate TV via Getty Images, Charles Krup/AP)

“If both the law and the facts are against you, present a distraction,” Raskin said. “Emphasize a sensational fact or perhaps a colorful and controversial public figure who appears on the scene. Then distort certain facts, ignore others even when they are the most probative, make conclusory statements and insinuate the shiny object is far more important than the actual facts allow. In short, divert attention from the holes in your case.”

Raskin said Giuliani had sought to weed out corruption in Ukraine out of patriotic duty, not on a “political errand” for Trump, who, according to the impeachment charges, was trying to discredit Biden, a leading Democratic candidate to challenge his reelection.

Raskin acknowledged Giuliani’s combative, combustible style.

“To be sure, Mr. Giuliani has always been somewhat of a controversial figure for his hard-hitting, take-no-prisoners approach, but it’s no stretch to say that he was respected by friend and foe alike for his intellect, his tenacity, his accomplishments and his fierce loyalty to his causes and his country,” she said. She quoted the legendary lawyer Clarence Darrow in Giuliani’s defense:

“The House managers may not like [Giuliani’s] style. You may not like his style. But one might argue that he is everything Clarence Darrow said a defense lawyer should be: outrageous, irreverent, blasphemous, a rogue, a renegade.”

Republicans in Congress have shied away from defending Giuliani publicly, while Democrats have raised his name regularly during the impeachment inquiry. During her testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, former National Security Council official Fiona Hill recounted former national security adviser John Bolton complaining about Giuliani’s role in the withholding of U.S. military aid from Ukraine.

“Giuliani’s a hand grenade who’s going to blow everybody up,” Hill said Bolton told her.

Giuliani, who has for months promised proof that the Bidens were involved in a variety of unsubstantiated corruption schemes in Ukraine and China, was left off the president’s defense team, but expressed his gratitude for Raskin’s words of support.

Giuliani’s repeated assurances on Joe Biden’s guilt have left many observers, including a leading Trump defender, Fox News anchor Jeanine Pirro, wondering when that evidence will be forthcoming.

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