Republican politician Rudy Giuliani just admitted to a federal court that he violated the Logan Act. The former New York Mayor tried to cut a deal with Turkey’s dictator in a secret meeting which would exchange an Iranian-Turkish citizen accused of criminally violating American economic sanctions against Iran for something of value to the US.
Rudy Giuliani admitted holding the secret meeting with Turkish dictator Recep Tayyip Erdogan, along with ex-Bush attorney general Mike Mukasey, in an extraordinary attempt to move the criminal case in a New York federal court against a Turkish gold trader into the diplomatic arena. The New York Times reports:
In late February, as the United States and the rest of the world were adjusting to President Trump and Turkey was focused on a push by its president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to expand his power, Mr. Erdogan agreed to an unusual meeting with some American visitors. The guests included Rudolph W. Giuliani, a former New York City mayor who had acted as a surrogate for Mr. Trump during his campaign, and another prominent lawyer, Michael B. Mukasey, who served as attorney general in President George W. Bush’s administration.
The purpose of the visit by Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Mukasey was rather extraordinary: They hoped to reach a diplomatic deal under which Turkey might further aid the United States’ interests in the region. In return, the United States might release the two men’s client, Reza Zarrab, a Turkish gold trader being held in a Manhattan jail whose case had attracted Mr. Erdogan’s interest.
Ironically, the issue arose because federal prosecutors noticed that Giuliani and the Bush-era former attorney general Mike Mukasey had previously represented the banks who are victims of the crime, and notified the judge of the obvious conflict of interest.
The Turkish trader’s lawyers told the federal judge presiding over the felony trial that Giuliani and Mukasey’s work “would not require them to appear in court” in an attempt to keep the matter under wraps. But the judge required Rudy Giuliani and Mukasey to explain themselves and just released their sworn statements, which are embedded below. Both lawyers claim that the defendant Zarrab is paying their bills and not the Turkish state.
The affidavits show that Giuliani firm Greenberg Traurig employs a Turkish Foreign Agent named Robert Mangas, who is lawfully registered under FARA to represent their Ambassador to the United States, but which places the firm effectively on the side of Turkey in this dispute, even though Giuliani purports to represent Zarrab.
Even more bizarre, the two private lawyers then obtained a US State Department briefing before meeting with Turkish President Erdogan. Giuliani and Mukasey also stated under oath to the court that their efforts were more or less diplomatic in nature and not legal representation in the normal sense of the words.
The Times also says that Turkey’s Foreign Minister complained to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson about former Obama appointee Preet Bharara’s job performance as a US Attorney, just a couple of weeks after Trump removed him from office, reversing an earlier public decision to keep the highly regarded attorney in place:
The subject of Mr. Zarrab came up again three weeks ago during a visit to Ankara, Turkey, by Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson. During that visit, Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, accused Preet Bharara, then the United States attorney in Manhattan, whose office first charged Mr. Zarrab, of being a pawn of anti-Turkish forces. Mr. Bharara, who was fired by President Trump last month, had characterized Mr. Cavusoglu’s remarks as “political propaganda.”
Preet Bharara responded to the revelation that Giuliani had undertaken a diplomatic mission outside of government service on Twitter with a finger-wagging statement, which is polite legalese for “this stinks.”
One just hopes that the rule of law, and its independent enforcement, still matters in the United States and at the Department of Justice. https://t.co/biPIqywWcJ
— Preet Bharara (@PreetBharara) April 20, 2017
Federal law prohibits US citizens from conducting any private foreign policy with a government with which America has a dispute, under the Logan Act.
Turkey’s authoritarian ruler even harangued former-VP Joe Biden last year at a UN meeting over the Zarrab case, so plainly there is a diplomatic dispute over this case.
Ever since the 9/11 terror attacks Rudy Giuliani has used his fame obtained through government service to transform himself into an international oil and gas lawyer, a security consultant, and apparently now, a freelance diplomat for hire.
Trump’s former surrogate and Muslim-ban advisor is playing hard and fast with legal ethics and is flagrantly violating one of the earliest laws Congress passed to delegate diplomatic power exclusively to the federal government’s executive branch.
Today’s admission raises serious legal questions about Rudy Giuliani’s conflicted interests, the legality of pursuing diplomacy outside of government service, and even worse, making it difficult to determine which country he is actually representing in these negotiations.
Read all about Rudy Giuliani’s secret mission to Turkey here:
Grant Stern is an Editor-At-Large for OccupyDemocrats and published author. His new Meet the Candidates 2020 book series is distributed by Simon and Schuster. He's also mortgage broker, community activist and radio personality in Miami, Florida., as well as the producer of the Dworkin Report podcast. Grant is also an occasional contributor to Raw Story, Alternet, and the DC Report, and a senior advisor to the Democratic Coalition