Congressional scrutiny on Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, who’s at the heart of an impeachment investigation into the president, just escalated.
The House Intelligence Committee, along with the oversight and foreign affairs panels, have subpoenaed Giuliani for a slew of documents tied to a July call President Donald Trump made to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. The committees are calling on Giuliani to produce texts and phone records chronicling communications he’s had with government officials such as former US envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker, as part of the House’s impeachment investigation. The intelligence committee has not yet requested that Giuliani personally come in to testify, but Schiff has signaled that this could still be a possibility.
According to a whistleblower report made about those communications, much of which was corroborated by a summary of the call released by the White House, Trump pressured Zelensky to investigate the business ties of Hunter Biden, son of his 2020 rival Joe Biden. The complaint also alleged that Giuliani was dispatched by Trump to help follow up on this request with various Ukrainian officials.
“Pursuant to the House of Representatives’ impeachment inquiry, we are hereby transmitting a subpoena that compels you to produce the documents set forth in the accompanying schedule by October 15, 2019,” a letter from Chairs Schiff, Elijah Cummings, and Eliot Engel reads.
Some of the information that the committees are requesting are records that Giuliani has divulged himself, the latest example of how he’s been a problematic surrogate for Trump. Although Giuliani has been staunchly loyal to the president, his many television appearances (and tendency to overshare on them), haven’t always provided the most effective defense.
Giuliani, in a past CNN interview, acknowledged that he had asked Ukrainian officials to look into Joe Biden. “Of course I did,” he said, when asked by anchor Chris Cuomo. He has, however, denied allegations raised in the whistleblower complaint, which stated that other US officials were concerned about his contacts with Ukrainian officials, and told CNN he has “no knowledge of any of that crap.”
It’s unclear how much Giuliani will comply with the subpoena
It remains to be seen just how much Giuliani will comply with the subpoena. He’s previously made antagonistic statements about cooperating with House intelligence efforts led by Schiff.
“I wouldn’t cooperate with Adam Schiff,” he said during an appearance on ABC’s This Week over the weekend, adding that he would be more open to sharing information with the committee if Schiff were no longer chair. Giuliani has also suggested that he would talk with Trump before submitting any information or testimony to the panel, and argued that some of his communications should be protected under attorney-client privilege.
Lawfare’s John Bies, however, notes that many of the documents House lawmakers are requesting may not fall under such protections:
At the outset, it is unclear that much of the information of interest to Congress regarding Giuliani’s conduct would even potentially be subject to the attorney-client privilege. The privilege exists to protect the confidential communication between a client and an attorney made for the purpose of obtaining legal advice. It does not protect, for instance, communications your attorney may have had with, say, foreign government officials—or, for that matter, with U.S. government officials.
Giuliani fired back at the subpoena on Twitter, but added that it would be given “appropriate consideration.”