WASHINGTON — Rudolph Giuliani’s ties to Ukraine stretch back to at least 2008, when he announced that his firm was advising a former boxing champion who was still running to become mayor of this capital city of Kiev.
Then, in 2017, about a year before President Donald Trump hired him to become his private attorney, Giuliani Safety & Security began working to the city of Kharkiv in northeast Ukraine. Press releases described the company as a consultant on Kharkiv’s emergency response and safety issues.
Giuliani’s emergence as a central figure in an effort to push Ukraine to investigate Trump’s potential presidential rival — a scandal which has led to an impeachment query — has raised fresh questions about the former New York City mayor’s business ties and public appearances in Ukraine and other countries. 1 possible line of question — and one that Senate Democrats happen to be pushing — is if Giuliani’s activities violate a federal law that requires Americans who operate on behalf of foreign governments to register with the Justice Department.
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This comes as the Justice Department has stepped up its use of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA, an 80-year-old legislation that Democrats say Giuliani may be violating. Once toothless and antiquated, the statute found its way into the public consciousness in the last couple of years at the height of the investigation to Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential elections and has been used to prosecute many people, involving two men who once were closeTrump advisers.
The ramped-up authorities has dramatically altered the landscape not just for lobbyists for foreign governments, but also for many others with overseas clients: global law firms, consultants and public relations specialists that, for decades, have ignored FARA, experts say.
Some do not enroll because of the administrative burden and also the stigma of being labeled a”foreign agent,” experts say. Parties also prevent registering in order to keep relationships with foreign governments and officials secret.
Giuliani, who did not respond to requests for comment and has hired a former Watergate prosecutor to represent himtold the Washington Post that his work for foreign governments doesn’t require him to enroll since it doesn’t involve lobbying the U.S., and he ignored questions about his foreign clients as”diversions by Democrats.”
But legal experts say Giuliani’s remarks represent a misunderstanding of how broad the FARA statute is, along with the Justice Department’s renewed focus on enforcing it ought to put him on notice.
“I think at the minimum, the Department of Justice would be warranted in taking a very close look at the arrangements which (Giuliani) has these foreign principals. … Given the background, given that the new modifications in police priorities, this would appear to be a case that could be ripe for the DOJ to at least ask questions,” said Josh Rosenstein, a Washington, D.C. lawyer who advises customers on FARA.
A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment.
Ukraine ties under scrutiny
Giuliani’s business ties in Ukraine spilled into public opinion in September,following a whistleblower’s allegations that he was a”central figure” in a bid to force the country’s recently elected president to exploring former president Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.
House Democrats have subpoenaed records, including contracts that Giuliani and his safety consulting company had with his Ukrainian clientele. The lengthy list of documents that the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence has required suggests a wide inquiry into possible FARA offenses.
One of the documents requested pertain to”engagements, consulting, counseling, or lobbying work” performed by Giuliani or his company on behalf of officials.
Among the Ukrainian customers that House researchers are focusing on is Pavel Fuks, a wealthy Ukrainian-Russian developer, who hired Giuliani’s firm to help enhance Kharkiv’s emergency services and international image. Fuks formerly clarified Giuliani as a”lobbyist” for the city and also for Ukraine.
“it’s very crucial for me that such individual as Giuliani informs people that we’re a good nation, that people can do business together. That’s what we would like to attract to America’s leaders,” Fuks told that the New York Times in June.
Experts say this comment should catch the interest of the Justice Department.
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“That is precisely the kind of activity that is within FARA’s scope,” said Matthew Sanderson, yet another Washington lawyer who advises customers on FARA. “FARA covers lobbying, but in addition, it covers much more than this, including any attempt to burnish the standing of a foreign object” amongst members of the American public.
David Laufman, a former Justice Department official who oversaw the enforcement of FARA, was cautious, saying that if Giuliani were symbolizing a foreign nation to affect an”official action” by the USA, his activities”could come within the scope” of FARA.
Other Ukrainian officials named in the subpoena are Gennady Kernes, mayor of Kharkiv, also Vitaly Klitschko, mayor of Kiev. Giuliani advised Klitschko during Klitschko’s 2008 mayoral bid. The Kiev mayor and former boxing champion visited Giuliani last July.
Giuliani’s company ventures involving Eastern Europe have been directed in part by a company that boasted of performing image consulting to firms and customers with Kremlin ties. TriGlobal Strategic Ventures, a consulting company whose website lists locations in Moscow, Kiev, New York, London, Zurich and Vienna, has a longstanding business relationship with Giuliani. Among TriGlobal’s clients, based on older versions of their firm’s website, was Transneft, Russia’s state-owned oil pipeline giant that is subject to U.S. economic sanctions.
Just having business ties into the form of consulting job with foreign governments is not enough to require registration under FARA, specialists say. But little is publicly known about Giuliani’s contracts with foreign authorities. His company, as an example, hadn’t disclosed how much it was compensated for his consulting work, or what the provisions of its contracts would be.
“DOJ may very well want to ask questions… to get to the bottom of what the facts really are,” Rosenstein said.
Giuliani’s proximity to the president also could raise questions regarding whether foreign officials with whom he is connected are using the connection to get details regarding U.S. policy, experts say.
“That is arguably registrable under FARA, and that means that you can very quickly get into troubled waters,” Sanderson said.
Are speaking engagements covered by FARA?
Giuliani kept the other side gigig,ven after he became Trump’s personal lawyer.
In October 2018he attended a conference in Armenia, where he met with the nation’s acting defense minister. Two months afterwards, he met together with the king of Bahrain. In the two meetings, relations with the United States were discussed, according to the 2 nations.
In February, he traveled to Poland, in which he talked in front of tens of thousands of fans of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, or MEK, a contentious Iranian dissident group, also called for a regime change in Iran. Months after, he had been in Albania, speaking for the identical group, which the United States formerly labeled a terrorist association.
These public appearances were among the several activities that merit an investigation, Senate Democrats wrote in a letter urging the Justice Department’s FARA device to begin an inquiry.
However, Laufman, who left the Justice Department in early 2018, said the types of actions the senators cited don’t, in their face, violate the statute. Only giving paid speeches to foreign groups, if in the USA or in other countries, does not require registration — unless the speech was a part of an effort to affect foreign policy and public opinion in the U.S, he said.
“There would have to be a complete exploration of facts to determine whether or not a speech as described in and of itself could trigger an obligation to register,” Laufman said.
Rosenstein stated Giuliani’s ties to MEK should set off alarm bells.
Giuliani has acknowledged that MEK has been his customer for at least a decade, and he’s spoken on behalf of the group during events held in Washington — which then raises questions, Rosenstein stated, about whether the speech was intended to affect the American public.
Giuliani also has not said whether he had been paid for the addresses, but high-profile speakers in MEK rallies regularly receive paid tens of thousands of dollars.
For 50 decades, the Justice Department used the FARA statute in only seven criminal cases. Laufman explained that changed in 2015, once the department started a more aggressive enforcement of the law.
The amount of FARA cases has more than doubled in the past two years, largely due to the prosecutions from specific counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation to Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Among those who’ve been prosecuted are just two men who had been at Trump’s inner circle: former national security advisor Michael Flynn, who’s yet to be sentenced, and former 2016campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who is in prison. Greg Craig, Barack Obama’s former White House counsel, was likewise charged; he was later acquitted.
“FARA itself and its authorities should really no longer be seen as kind of this sleepy old legal regime,” Rosenstein said. “And instead, you’ve seen a true awakening of the authorities.”
In Giuliani’s case, there’s a”real and present threat” that he’d end up violating the law,” Sanderson said.
“One contact or one act can trigger enrollment, so he certainly ought to be careful, particularly when he is throwing stones at others,” Sanderson added.