What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

How Rudy Giuliani went from ‘America’s mayor’ to Ukraine business broker

Mentioned frequently in transcripts from closed-door testimonies in the impeachment inquiry, Rudy Giuliani stands at the center of the saga over President Trump’s Ukraine policy. Giuliani is now the president’s personal lawyer, but he first entered the national spotlight as New York’s tough-on-crime mayor — and later, a consoling figure amid the grief of September 11th. Yamiche Alcindor reports.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, as we just heard, transcripts of closed-door — closed-door testimonies from various State Department officials put Rudy Giuliani at the center of the impeachment inquiry.

    He is the president's personal lawyer, but now his own actions in Ukraine, ones that are being called shadow foreign policy, have put him and his associates under the microscope.

    Yamiche is back now with this report on how a man once known as America's mayor arrived at this moment.

  • Rudy Giuliani:

    That we can save a few people.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    The attacks on September 11, 2001, thrust Rudy Giuliani onto the national stage.

  • Oprah Winfrey:

    America's mayor. He's the mayor of New York City. Ladies and gentleman, Rudy Giuliani.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

  • Rudy Giuliani:

    So, I thank you very much for your leadership on the ground.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    For a city in crisis, Giuliani, the mayor of New York, was seen as a steady leader. He helped rally those in grief and is often remembered for his fortitude during those times.

    Prior to 9/11, Giuliani was a polarizing figure.

  • Rudy Giuliani:

    I speak my mind. It was that way yesterday. It's going to be that way today. It's going to be the same tomorrow.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    He presented himself as a tough-on-crime mayor who was going to clean up the city.

  • Rudy Giuliani:

    It's going to stop and end when we change the people who are running New York City.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    But, under his tenure, New York ushered in controversial policing tactics. A federal judge later ruled some were racial discriminatory and were, hence, unconstitutional.

    Before he was mayor, Giuliani made a name for himself as one of the country's most powerful prosecutors.

  • Rudy Giuliani:

    You're dealing with a true crime empire.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Early in the Reagan administration, he was the associate attorney general, the third highest position in the Department of Justice. Then he became U.S. attorney for the federal prosecutor's office in Manhattan. There, he was known for going after corruption and organized crime.

  • Rudy Giuliani:

    Twelve board members have aided and abetted wire fraud.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Andrea Bernstein, co-host of the "Trump, Inc." podcast from WNYC and ProPublica, has covered Giuliani for decades.

  • Andrea Bernstein:

    He put the families that ran the national mafia in prison. He sent corrupt political figures to prison, including a business partner of Roy Cohn, who President Trump has often referred to as the lawyer no one else could match. And he also went after Wall Street traders.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    In New York, Giuliani was a big name. So was Donald Trump. The two ran in similar circles.

  • Andrea Bernstein:

    They're of a certain era. And they both have really made their bones by selling their brands, in Trump's case, glitz and success, in Rudy Giuliani's case, law and order.

    When Rudy ran for mayor, Trump became a major financial backer. And the Giuliani administration helped Trump's business projects. And they struck up a friendship, a chemistry, really, which has lasted all the way into the present.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    In the year 2000, the two appeared together in a comedy sketch for a press dinner.

  • Rudy Giuliani:

    Oh, you dirty boy. Oh. Oh. Donald, I thought you were a gentleman.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    In 2007, not long after leaving the mayor's office, Giuliani ran for the Republican nomination for president. For several months, he was the front-runner, but dropped out after the Florida primary without securing a single delegate.

  • Rudy Giuliani:

    Thank you all for your hard work, your spirit, and your support.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    In 2016, Giuliani was an early and vocal supporter of then candidate Trump.

  • Rudy Giuliani:

    What I did for New York, Donald Trump will do for America!

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    When Robert Mueller began investigating the president as special counsel, Mr. Trump turned to Giuliani to be one of his personal lawyers.

    Giuliani took their defense right to the court of public opinion on TV.

  • Rudy Giuliani:

    The president didn't collude with the Russians, whatever contact, nobody.

  • Chris Cuomo:

    He said nobody had any contact. Tons of people had contact.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Now Giuliani finds himself at the center of the impeachment inquiry.

  • Chris Cuomo:

    So, you did ask Ukraine to look into Joe Biden?

  • Rudy Giuliani:

    Of course I did.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    In closed-door depositions on Capitol Hill, a parade of witnesses said Giuliani played a critical role in shaping U.S. policy to Ukraine to benefit President Trump politically.

    The initial whistle-blower complaint that sparked the impeachment inquiry states: "The president's personal lawyer, Mr. Rudy Giuliani, is a central figure in this effort."

    The top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine, William Taylor, told U.S. House investigators he was concerned about Giuliani's actions. He said Giuliani was leading a — quote — "irregular, informal channel of U.S. policy making with respect to Ukraine."

    For Giuliani, his work abroad has often been met with legal scrutiny. In 2001, Giuliani launched a lucrative consulting firm. His clients were all over the globe, Brazil, Qatar, Romania, Argentina.

  • Andrea Bernstein:

    By the time he ran for president in 2007, his disclosure forms showed that he'd gone from having less than $5 million in assets when he left City Hall to about somewhere between $20 million and $50 million in assets, and much of that had come through these foreign business relationships.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    A lot of that work remains mysterious. For example, his work in Turkey and with an Iranian dissident group may have broken the law.

  • Brooke Baldwin:

    Rudy Giuliani is going on a fishing trip, as in an information-gathering mission, in Ukraine.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Ukraine though is at the heart of the impeachment inquiry. It may also be central to a possible criminal investigation into Giuliani.

  • Chuck Todd:

    A criminal investigation into Rudy Giuliani's work in Ukraine.

  • Howard Kurtz:

    And joining us now from New York is a key figure in the Ukraine drama, Rudy Giuliani.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Giuliani made his first trip to Ukraine in 2003. That began a decade of consulting and publicity trips to the country.

  • Andrea Bernstein:

    People in countries around the world see him as a conduit to the Trump administration. He began working in Ukraine for the mayors of various cities, for the mayor of Kharkiv, for the mayor of Kiev. He began making trips there.

    It doesn't seem like these trips involved real consulting work, maybe a speech, but certainly appearances.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    During the first two years of the Trump administration, Giuliani ramped up his trips to Ukraine. He sought to dig up dirt on President Trump's political rivals there. To do so, he turned to two associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman.

  • Andrea Bernstein:

    These two individuals, with a series of different kinds of businesses, but no real track record in American politics, began to get very, very close and to make very generous donations to Trump's political causes.

    What was unusual about this is that they really didn't have a business profile, and yet they were making contributions running up to the hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republican political causes.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Giuliani dispatched Parnas and Fruman to Kiev, the capital city of Ukraine. They were to uncover information to undermine the U.S. intelligence community and special counsel Mueller's findings that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.

    In their efforts, the two connected Giuliani with the Ukrainian prosecutor general at the time, Yuriy Lutsenko.

  • Rudy Giuliani:

    Lutsenko is somebody that, at one point in the past year said, that he had information that could be damaging to the Bidens and was working closely with Rudy Giuliani in his effort to, as Giuliani saw it, expose some kind of malfeasance by the Biden family.

    Now, it's worth saying that there is no such evidence of that.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Giuliani's meetings with the Ukrainian prosecutor are an important thread in the impeachment investigation. As for Parnas and Fruman, they ran into their own legal troubles.

  • William Sweeney:

    This Investigation is about corrupt behavior, deliberate lawbreaking.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    The two have been indicted by federal prosecutors for allegedly illegally funneling campaign contributions to get the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine removed from her post, among other charges.

  • John Sullivan:

    My knowledge in the spring and summer of this year about any involvement of Mr. Giuliani was in connection with a campaign against our ambassador to Ukraine.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    That was President Trump's nominee to be ambassador of Russia, Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, in his public confirmation hearing before the Senate last month.

    As these questions swirl, Giuliani has been noticeably absent from his once frequent TV appearances. He has been subpoenaed by the U.S. House. So far, he is refusing to comply.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Yamiche Alcindor.

Listen to this Segment

The Latest