2019-10-17 14:55:251 Oct 2018 01:53 AM EST
Just when we thought we had Rudy Giuliani figured out, he stuns us again. After implicating himself in the Ukraine scandal, it was learned he was an even bigger part of the scheme than imagined.
And now to add to that, he is also involved with Turkey. He reportedly urged Donald Trump to extradite a Turkish cleric that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wanted out.
Fethullah Gulen was living in exile in the United States. According to multiple former officials in the administration, getting him, a permanent U.S. resident living in Pennsylvania, extradited was a top priority for Erdogan.
Accused of plotting a 2016 coup attempt against Erdogan, Gulen has denied involvement.
Before he became Trump's personal attorney, the former mayor of New York urged Trump to extradite Gulen. Giuliani brought up Gulen so frequently that a former official described the situation as his "hobby horse,' according to a former official.
"It was all Gulen," reports another former official. White House aides were concerned the attorney was pressing the case on behalf of the Turkish government.
"We're not going to arrest [Gulen] to do a solid for Erdogan," the second official reports of the wisdom behind the move.
Trump, receptive to the idea of extraditing Gulen, urged his advisers about the case. A former senior official said the president frequently asked why Gulen couldn't be handed over to Turkey and referred to Erdogan as his "friend."
Officials were against the move and told Trump that it could violate the legal process and damage him politically.
It's not known why Giuliani agreed to push the case, though Erdogan had previously brought it up to the administrations of former President Barack Obama and Trump.
In 2017 Giuliani pushed then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to assist on another Erdogan project: to help stop a Turkish Iranian trader, according to The Washington Post.
If he were being paid to do this work for Erdogan, Giuliani would need to register as a lobbyist, and he has not. He told The Post in an interview last Monday that he never represented Turkey, so he doesn't need to register as a lobbyist.
Yet, he seemed to contradict that statement on Tuesday in a text conversation when he declined in writing to discuss whether he advocated for Gulen to be pushed out, noting he "can't comment on it that would be complete attorney client privilege but sounds wacky."
Told that multiple people described his conversations, Trump's attorney responded "Bull" yet added a thumbs-up emoji to the question.
Asked to further respond, he texted he "will not partiipate in an illegitimate, unconstitutional, and baseless 'impeachment inquiry,'" even though this doesn't have anything to do with the Ukraine situation.
In December Trump agreed to look into Erdoga 's extradition request of Gulen the White House reported at that time. The following month a U.S. delegation met with Turkish officials to discuss it.
This was after Trump's former national security adviser Michael Flynn urged negative views of Gulen during the 2016 election and presidential transition.
"We should not provide him safe haven," Flynn wrote in an opinion piece in November 2016.
A year later he admitted to lying to the FBI about his conversations with a Russian ambassador and making false statements about the consulting work he did for Turkey. While he has not withdrawn his guilty plea, he has said more recently that he is the victim of a government effort to smear him.
Gulen's attorney, Reid Weingarten, said he'd find it disturbing if Guliani was trying to get him returned to Turkey after Flynn was trying the same.
"We have argued aggressively, and I thought persuasively, to both the Obama and Trump Justice Departments that the allegations against Gulen are false and that any effort to extradite him would fail legally and factually and would be an embarrassment to the United States," said Weingarten in a statement.
"After Gen. Flynn's efforts on behalf of Turkey on this subject were exposed, it is hard to believe Giuliani would follow suit."
It's known that Giuliani has many foreign clients — including Romania, Brazil, Bahrain, Colombia, and Ukraine — while also serving Trump as his personal attorney. He has also represented an Iranian dissident group that was on the State Department's list of terrorist organizations at one point.
He believes he does not need to register his overseas work with the Justice Department because he doesn't lobby U.S. officials for his clients.
"I don't represent foreign government in front of the U.S. govenrment," he said earlier this year. "I've never registered to lobby."
Yet, senior officials have been so concerned about his work in the past and that he may have been paid to pedal Turkey's interests that they confronted him in 2017 and requested he not bring up Turkish issues when he meets with Trump, according to a person familiar with the conversation.
Asked in a text if he remembered that conversation, he respnded with a thumbs-up emoji.
Despite his thoughts that he doesn't need to register as a lobbyist, experts in the field claim his private conversations with Trump regarding policy matters could violate lobbying rules if he were pushing on behalf of one of his foreign clients. This includes the pushing for Gulen to be extradited.
With regard to the Turkish Iranian client trader, Reza Zarrab, he held embarrassing and politically-damaging information about Erdogan and other Turkish officials. This came out in court when he pleaded guilty to orchestrating a conspiracy to evade U.S. sanctions against Iran.
Erdogan asked Trump to release Zarab in personal meetings and in calls in 2017, claiming that the trader was charged in a conspiracy to violate U.S. sancitions against Iran and was a political "hostage" in the U.S.
Giuliani jumped onto his legal team in 2017 and traveled to Turkey to meet with Erdogan to discuss the case. In affidavits, he said "at no time" had he "been involved in the representation of the Republic of Turkey" or acted as an agent for the country.
He did admit his law firm did work for the Turkish government but said he was not involved in it.
A Washington attorney who works on foreign lobbying registration, Matthew Sanderson, disputes Giuliani's view of the law. "It seems Giuliani was acting on behalf of a foreign principal and representing those interests before a U.S. government official, which can trigger the registration requirement," he said.
"I have never lobbied for a foreign government," insisted Giuliani in a Monday interview. While Zarrab was his client, he insists the Turkish government was not. "I was working for him," not Turkey he said.
He stated earlier this month that complaints regarding his foreign clients are "diversions by Democrats hoping to shoot the messenger."
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