On Monday, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani was sued by his own attorney over unpaid bills. It’s just the latest tumble in an avalanche of shame that began with one simple action: Giuliani signed on to try to keep Donald Trump in office, no matter what.
For Giuliani, his prolonged self-abasement has meant multiple trips to meet with pro-Russian politicians and oligarchs with the help of convicted foreign agents. It has meant accidentally scheduling a major press briefing outside a landscaping service. It has meant endless public and private indignities. It has meant nearly losing his license to practice law. Most of all, it has meant years of toadying to Trump, only to end up broke, humiliated, and begging for help.
As The New York Times puts it, “He has seen a remarkable reversal of fortunes since going to work for Mr. Trump.”
When Giuliani first went to Ukraine in May 2019, he brought back a story claiming that then-candidate Joe Biden had helped to sack a Ukrainian prosecutor in order to protect his son Hunter. It took just 10 days to show that everything Giuliani was saying was a lie, which hasn’t stopped Republicans from using these claims as the basis of their effort to impeach President Biden four years later.
At first, Giuliani claimed to have made the trips to Ukraine on his own, with the kind help of a pair of guides who not only worked for a pro-Russian oligarch, but who were arrested and eventually pleaded guilty for their role in funneling foreign funds to U.S. politicians.
What the collection of crooks and Russia supporters who were feeding stories to Giuliani wanted was the removal of a U.S. ambassador who was interfering with their criminal schemes. They got what they wanted. But what Giuliani got out of it was the first of many criminal investigations.
All through 2019, Trump denied that he had been behind Giuliani’s actions in Ukraine. It was only in February 2020, with his impeachment over events in Ukraine safely in the rearview, that Trump went on a podcast hosted by Geraldo Rivera to brag that he had been giving Giuliani his marching orders all along. “Other presidents had them,” Trump said in defense of using Giuliani as his personal tool in trying to extort a foreign nation for evidence against a political opponent. “FDR had a lawyer who was practically, you know, he was totally involved with government. Eisenhower had a lawyer. They all had lawyers.”
None of them had lawyers like Giuliani. Because the ex-mayor didn’t let a little thing like being turned into a Russian intelligence asset get in his way. He made his own extortion call to Ukraine and continued to make trips to eastern Europe, meeting with increasingly low-level figures who were eager to get in on the scam, and produce increasing ludicrous claims—including the time Giuliani said that 92-year-old George Soros had personally tried to kill him on an airport tarmac.
A few months later, the former mayor was back in front of the cameras waving around a water-soaked laptop that he claimed belonged to Hunter Biden. That laptop, which according to Giuliani contained images of cocaine-fueled sex, was conveniently handed to him by a Delaware computer shop owner just weeks before the 2020 election.
What was actually on the laptop, and how it relates to any of the supposed contents released to the public—from Marjorie Taylor Greene’s revenge-porn stunt to the financial information posted online by a former Trump White House aide—remains unclear. Much of what has been posted in public may never have been on the laptop at all.
Even so, the two items that are at the heart of everything Republicans in Congress are doing today in their “impeachment inquiry”—the fabricated story of Biden’s role in Ukraine, and Hunter Biden’s stolen laptop—are both gifts provided to them by Giuliani.
And that was before Giuliani got down to his main task: helping Trump in his attempted coup. For months, Giuliani was there at every step. He was there for dozens of failed lawsuits, for an endless stream of false claims, and for a defamatory attack on campaign workers that led to Giuliani reluctantly admitting that he lied.
That admission came the same week that Giuliani became one of 18 co-defendants in the racketeering indictment handed up by a Georgia grand jury. In that indictment, Giuliani matches Trump in the total number of charges he is facing. The 13 charges against the disgraced attorney include: violations of Georgia’s RICO Act; making multiple false statements to investigators; multiple attempts to convince public officials to violate their oath; and a line of conspiracies involving forgery, impersonating a public official, and filing false documents. One of those counts involves a presentation Giuliani made to the Georgia Senate in which he repeated the claims against campaign workers that he has already admitted were a lie.
Conviction on any one of those charges could see the 79-year-old former prosecutor spend the rest of his life behind bars. Which seems like a pretty bad end for someone whose biggest claim to fame was that he started off using the RICO Act against mobsters.
That’s not even mentioning the endless public embarrassment—like this New York Times article, in which multiple experts weigh in on the nature of the black stuff dripping down the side of Giuliani’s face during one particularly sweaty press conference.
In the course of working for Trump, Giuliani has run up not just a fat stack of criminal charges but also a whopping pile of legal bills. That’s one inconvenient thing about violating the law repeatedly: It often means repeatedly needing to hire a lawyer. That rising stack of bills required Giuliani to go begging to Trump in an effort to get some of his debt paid down. However, as CNN reported last month, Trump responded in exactly the way one might expect when Giuliani tried to convince him that it was in Trump’s own interest to cover Giuliani’s seven-figure legal bills.
But the former president, who is notoriously strict about dipping into his own coffers, didn’t seem very interested. After Costello made his pitch, Trump verbally agreed to help with some of Giuliani’s legal bills without committing to any specific amount or timeline.
Trump’s hey, sure, I’ll do something, sometime, eventually morphed into what was reportedly a $100,000-per-plate fundraiser for the man who brought home the Ukraine lie, Hunter Biden’s laptop, and that memorable briefing at Four Seasons Total Landscaping. Guiliani’s son claimed that the fundraiser was expected to raise “at least $1 million,” indicating that at least 10 people would show up. But there seems to be no post-event recap announcing the actual take.
Considering that Giuliani’s attorney says he only paid $214,000 of his $1.36 million debt in a lawsuit filed a week after the fundraiser … does that mean only two people showed up? It’s certain that Trump wasn’t cutting a check, and it wouldn’t have made any sense for Giuliani to pay. So perhaps there was an extremely uncomfortable foursome staring at each other across a very small table at Trump’s Bedminster, New Jersey, golf property? Did they at least get in 18 holes while they were there?
The truth is that Rudy Giuliani was never a great man. Or even a good one. His record as a mayor was one of police violence, general incompetence, personal indulgence, taking credit for others’ actions, and getting tossed from Gracie Mansion after cheating on his second wife. That he was on hand to feature in bullhorn-toting photographs after 9/11 gained him a huge level of undeserved goodwill on which he might have retired as an ersatz saint.
Instead he pitched in his lot with Trump. And how did that go again?
Rudolph W. Giuliani, already under criminal indictment and at risk of losing his law license for his effort to keep Donald J. Trump in office after the 2020 election, is now being sued by his own lawyer.
That’s how Giulaini will be remembered in the future. And that really is all his fault.