Written by Neil Vigdor
President Donald Trump bristled at accounts Saturday that his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, had become a focus of a widening criminal investigation into his dealings in Ukraine, insisting that Giuliani was a “crime buster” and target of a “witch hunt.”
On Twitter, Trump referred to Giuliani’s background as the former New York City mayor and a one-time federal prosecutor.
“So now they are after the legendary ‘crime buster’ and greatest Mayor in the history of NYC, Rudy Giuliani,” Trump wrote. “He may seem a little rough around the edges sometimes, but he is also a great guy and wonderful lawyer. Such a one-sided Witch Hunt going on in USA. Deep State. Shameful!”
On Friday, Trump was far less emphatic when asked if Giuliani was still his personal lawyer.
“Well, I don’t know,” Trump said as he left the White House for a campaign rally in Louisiana. “I haven’t spoken to Rudy. I spoke to him yesterday briefly. He’s a very good attorney and he has been my attorney.”
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment Saturday about Giuliani’s status.
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are scrutinizing whether Giuliani violated federal lobbying laws with his dealings in Ukraine, especially his role in undermining Marie Yovanovitch, the ousted U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, a former Soviet republic, The New York Times reported Friday.
Giuliani has denied wrongdoing but acknowledged participating in an effort to dig up dirt on Trump’s political adversaries, particularly former Vice President Joe Biden. That effort is the focus of a parallel impeachment probe in the House of Representatives.
Trump’s full-throated defense of Giuliani came less than 72 hours after two of Giuliani’s associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, were arrested Wednesday night with one-way tickets to Frankfurt at Dulles International Airport outside of Washington.
The two men were charged with making illegal campaign donations, said Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, a position once held by Giuliani.
While the indictments did not accuse Trump of wrongdoing, Parnas and Fruman helped Trump’s efforts to gather damaging information in Ukraine on his political opponents, particularly Biden and his son Hunter Biden.