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Rudy Giuliani talked to Trump about getting a preemptive pardon before the president leaves office, report says

Business Insider logo Business Insider 12/1/2020 ssheth@businessinsider.com (Sonam Sheth)
Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump are posing for a picture: Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump in November 2016. Drew Angerer/Getty Images © Drew Angerer/Getty Images Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump in November 2016. Drew Angerer/Getty Images
  • Rudy Giuliani has talked to President Donald Trump about the possibility of receiving a preemptive pardon before Trump leaves office in January, The New York Times reported on Tuesday.
  • Giuliani, Trump's personal defense lawyer, discussed the pardon with the president as recently as last week, but it wasn't the first conversation they had about it, per The Times.
  • The former New York mayor is the focus of a federal criminal investigation into whether he violated foreign lobbying laws through his dealings in Ukraine and his involvement in the abrupt firing of Marie Yovanovitch as the US's ambassador to Ukraine.
  • CNN reported in mid-November that FBI agents had contacted witnesses in recent weeks to ask about Giuliani's Ukraine work and about any possible links to Russian intelligence.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

President Donald Trump's personal defense attorney Rudy Giuliani talked to the president about receiving a preemptive pardon before Trump leaves office, The New York Times reported on Tuesday.

Citing two people told of the discussion, The Times reported that Giuliani broached the possibility with Trump as recently as last week and that it wasn't the first time the topic was raised.

Giuliani is the focus of a criminal investigation by the Manhattan US attorney's office into whether he violated foreign lobbying laws through his work in Ukraine. Specifically, federal prosecutors are said to be examining Giuliani's business dealings in Ukraine and his involvement in the firing of Marie Yovanovitch as the US's ambassador to Ukraine.

Giuliani's lawyer, Robert Costello, told The Times that Giuliani was "not concerned about this investigation, because he didn't do anything wrong and that's been our position from Day 1."

Yovanovitch and other witnesses testified during Trump's impeachment proceedings last year that Giuliani embarked on a smear campaign against the ambassador after she refused to let him use the US Embassy in Ukraine in his efforts to obtain political dirt on Joe Biden and his son Hunter ahead of the 2020 election.

Yovanovitch characterized the smear campaign against her as based on "false claims by people with clearly questionable motives," and said she felt "shocked" and "threatened" by the attacks against her. She was abruptly recalled in April 2019 and terminated the following month.

Giuliani's hunt for dirt was part of the Trump administration's shadow foreign-policy channel with respect to Ukraine — a top-down effort that included the president's attempt to strong-arm the Ukrainian government into launching politically motivated investigations against the Bidens to help Trump's reelection bid. While pressuring the Ukrainian government, Trump froze nearly $400 million in vital military aid and dangled a White House meeting that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky desperately sought.

CNN reported on November 19 that in recent weeks, FBI agents in New York had gotten in touch with witnesses to ask about the former New York mayor's work in Ukraine and about any possible links to Russian intelligence.

US intelligence agencies last year cautioned the White House that Russian operatives were using Giuliani to funnel disinformation to Trump. The warning came after intercepted communications showed that Giuliani interacted with multiple people who had ties to Russian intelligence when he traveled to Ukraine to look for dirt on the Bidens.

Among the people Giuliani met with was a Ukrainian national named Andrii Derkach, who has since been sanctioned by the Treasury Department, accused of acting as a Russian agent and spreading disinformation about the Bidens and the 2020 election. Giuliani has been reluctant to acknowledge Derkach as a Russian agent, telling The Daily Beast in an October interview that "the chance that Derkach is a Russian spy is no better than 50/50."

The Washington Post reported in October that Trump brushed off warnings about Giuliani's vulnerability to being exploited by foreign intelligence, shrugging and saying, "That's Rudy."

Giuliani's ties to Russian interests were thrust back into the spotlight this fall when he coordinated a widely discredited New York Post story purporting to show "smoking-gun" emails between Hunter Biden and a senior Burisma Holdings executive about setting up a meeting with Joe Biden when he was the vice president in 2015.

Giuliani, Trump, and their allies seized on the story and said it proved that Biden inappropriately leveraged his government position to shut down a criminal investigation into Burisma to protect Hunter, who was on Burisma's board at the time.

As Business Insider reported, there is no evidence that these claims hold merit, and they've been debunked by intelligence assessments, news reports, congressional investigations, and witness testimony. Shortly after the story was published, NBC News reported that federal authorities were investigating whether the emails, which the Post said it obtained from a thumb drive Giuliani turned over, were part of a foreign influence operation.

Giuliani is now spearheading the Trump campaign's faltering legal effort to overturn the results of the 2020 election. The campaign and Republican officials have filed more than two dozen lawsuits but haven't won a single case.

On Monday, Giuliani appeared at an event with Arizona state legislators where he alleged a broad and baseless conspiracy theory about voter fraud and election rigging that he said was proof that the election results were illegitimate.

Also on Monday, the battleground states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Nevada, and Georgia certified their election results, cementing Biden's victory.

Giuliani pushed back on The Times' report on Tuesday and denied that he spoke to Trump about a pardon.

"#FakeNews NYT lies again. Never had the discussion they falsely attribute to an anonymous source," he tweeted. "Hard to keep up with all their lies."

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