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Biden Probe Should Follow Trump's Expected Senate Acquittal, Giuliani Says

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Some senators voting to leave President Trump in office today have a message for him. Susan Collins of Maine says the president has learned a lesson. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee says of the president, quote, "hopefully he won't do that again." The president's personal lawyer, he is ready to do that again. Rudolph Giuliani remains determined to have Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden investigated, the same effort that led to impeachment.

Do you still have people looking for information for you in Ukraine?

RUDY GIULIANI: I won't answer that - never tell you what I'm doing, investigating. But I - let's put it this way...

INSKEEP: Let me frame it a different way. Are you still investigating?

GIULIANI: Am I still investigating? Yes, I'm still investigating...

INSKEEP: Are you still seeking more information?

GIULIANI: I get more information. A lot of it comes to me.

INSKEEP: Are you doing that on the authority of the president?

GIULIANI: He hasn't told me not to do it. He hasn't told me not to do it.

INSKEEP: We met New York's former mayor at his Manhattan apartment. The furniture was a little sparse, but there's art on the walls, paintings of religious icons and a New York Yankees pinstriped jersey signed by Joe DiMaggio.

That's a lovely office. It's an amazing office.

GIULIANI: The only problem is noise.

INSKEEP: From the street, yeah.

GIULIANI: Yeah, it's a beautiful setting.

INSKEEP: The noise of New York makes it a bit harder to record his podcast, which is also a video series. The former mayor looks at the camera and makes hours of allegations against Joe Biden involving Ukraine.

(SOUNDBITE OF PODCAST, "COMMON SENSE")

GIULIANI: So let me begin as if this were a trial.

INSKEEP: Giuliani has a sponsor now.

(SOUNDBITE OF PODCAST, "COMMON SENSE")

GIULIANI: Subscribe to Cigar Aficionado right now through the link on our website.

INSKEEP: And his series continues even as the president's trial ends. Giuliani spoke with us in the light from a window. He wore an American flag lapel pin that he said he got from the Secret Service. It's a little sign of his link to the president. He spearheaded the effort in Ukraine in which the president recalled an ambassador, withheld military aid and finally faced impeachment, all without getting the investigations he wanted. Giuliani now looks upon the looming Senate vote with satisfaction.

What message should the country take from the president's acquittal?

GIULIANI: The country should get the message that - well, I believe, as his lawyer and his friend, the message they should get is - because I'm intimately aware of these - he didn't do anything wrong. The whole Ukrainian thing is completely mispresented. And the Democrats did do a good job of spinning it.

INSKEEP: Giuliani insisted, not for the first time, that he did not go looking for dirt on Joe Biden. He does admit following tips about the former vice president and his son. Hunter Biden took a position on the board of a Ukrainian energy company while his father was vice president. Giuliani's campaign for information to help President Trump eventually led to the president's July 25 phone call. That's when he asked Ukraine's president to announce investigations.

We spoke with Lamar Alexander, Republican senator from Tennessee, who's voting for acquittal...

GIULIANI: Yes.

INSKEEP: ...But says what the president did was inappropriate, that he did ask for Biden to be investigated and hopefully he won't do that again. Is Lamar Alexander right?

GIULIANI: No, Lamar is wrong. And Lamar is a good friend of mine and he's a fine man, except he doesn't know all the facts. (Laughter) He only knows half of the facts, a lot of them distorted.

INSKEEP: Meaning it was OK for the president to ask...

GIULIANI: Absolutely...

INSKEEP: ...For Biden to be investigated?

GIULIANI: Right. Biden committed a very serious crime in Ukraine - or at least there is overwhelming evidence of it.

INSKEEP: You're referring to Biden's effort as vice president to have a prosecutor suspected of corruption removed?

GIULIANI: Oh, more than that.

INSKEEP: If it was appropriate for the president to ask Ukraine's president to investigate Joe Biden, should he resume that after his acquittal?

GIULIANI: Is it appropriate for a president of the United States, any president? Let's take President Trump out because he's treated so unfairly.

INSKEEP: Lamar Alexander said this was an inappropriate thing to do...

GIULIANI: Well, Lamar Alexander...

INSKEEP: ...You said Lamar is wrong, so does that mean the president's action was appropriate?

GIULIANI: But I understand why Lamar is wrong. He doesn't understand the facts. Nobody has had...

INSKEEP: But I'm asking you if the president should go back to that. Should he do it again if it was appropriate?

GIULIANI: Biden should be investigated, absolutely, 100%...

INSKEEP: And the president should be involved in that?

GIULIANI: ...For the crime of multiple bribery.

INSKEEP: The president of the United States should be involved in that? Would you encourage him to go back?

GIULIANI: Well, he's the chief law enforcement officer of the United States. He certainly shouldn't back away from it.

INSKEEP: Have you been talking to him about that?

GIULIANI: I haven't talked to him about this case in quite a while. But I would have no problem with him doing it. In fact, I'd have a problem not doing it. I think he would be saying that Joe Biden can get away with selling out the United States, making us a fool in Ukraine.

INSKEEP: Do you view the Senate acquittal, assuming that goes ahead as expected, as a vindication?

GIULIANI: Absolutely, it's a total vindication. Some of the senators know why they're doing it. Some of the senators are doing it because the president is completely innocent. He did exactly the right thing, exactly what an American president should do.

INSKEEP: The former mayor has had some trouble persuading others of his theories. Despite that personal request from President Trump, Ukraine's leaders never did see a reason to investigate Joe Biden. Testimony in the impeachment inquiry suggested that President Trump's own Justice Department also made no move to investigate Giuliani's claims in Ukraine.

When federal prosecutors did uncover alleged crimes, they involved people close to Giuliani. They indicted two of Giuliani's own associates who helped him gather allegations. Both are accused of making illegal campaign donations to buy influence in the United States. One is named Lev Parnas, and he was in federal court in Manhattan just this week.

What do you think about when you read news stories and Parnas is described as an associate of yours?

GIULIANI: Well, first of all, I never have trouble with the truth. That's true, he was. I'll go further, he was a friend of mine. And I loved his family and probably him. I made a mistake. I made a mistake of judgment in Lev. I didn't know - I was warned by some people. But I felt about him like he was telling me the truth. He was so enthusiastic about wanting to help. He was so enthusiastic about the president and about the good things the president is doing.

INSKEEP: Is it accurate when Parnas says, as he has, that he was not just a client of yours, he was working for you to gather information and was also working for the president through you?

GIULIANI: He was not working for the president. I mean...

INSKEEP: He was working for you?

GIULIANI: ...I asked him for help.

INSKEEP: And he says that when he talked to you, sometimes the president would be on the phone, that he would hear the president on the phone.

GIULIANI: He never spoke to the president at all but one time...

INSKEEP: But he would hear you talking to the president?

GIULIANI: He would have heard me begin a conversation and then walk away.

INSKEEP: That's exactly what he describes.

GIULIANI: So here's what would happen, I would know - it's the White House, president would like to speak to you. OK. Thank you. And I'd go in that room in there.

INSKEEP: Giuliani dismisses news reports that prosecutors in the New York office that he once led have taken an interest in him.

I spoke some time ago with Jeffrey Harris, former federal prosecutor, who I believe was a close friend of yours for a long time. And you had dinner all the time...

GIULIANI: He was. He was an associate of mine. He was an associate of mine. He was my chief of staff when I was associate attorney general to Ronald Reagan.

INSKEEP: And he spoke very highly of you. He said that as a federal prosecutor, before you became U.S. attorney, if there were 100 people in the office, you were one of the very best in the courtroom. He is critical of you now, says that if he had a chance to talk with you now, he'd ask why you're doing this. He would say, what's going to be the first paragraph of your obituary...

GIULIANI: (Laughter).

INSKEEP: ...And that you've taken an excellent career and made yourself a joke.

GIULIANI: Well, Jeffrey is wrong. Jeffrey - I haven't seen Jeffrey in 20 years. Jeffrey has no idea of the facts that I have. It's always a good idea to know the facts before you comment. He has no idea the witnesses I have. He has no idea that I have smoking guns like this. He has no idea that I may even have tape recordings.

INSKEEP: Wait a minute. You may even have tape recordings?

GIULIANI: I may even have tape recordings.

INSKEEP: You cannot leave that dangling, either you do or you don't, sir.

GIULIANI: Well, I haven't gotten them yet.

INSKEEP: OK.

GIULIANI: They've been offered to me, haven't seen them.

INSKEEP: In other words, the onetime mayor does not have the tapes he just suggested he had. He dismissed his old friend for not knowing about evidence that Giuliani does not know about either. We should mention that Rudolph Giuliani's ties to the president are sometimes unclear. He says he is not paid to represent the president. And when we asked the White House about his current status, they did not respond. What is clear is that Giuliani is still talking. And near the end of our hourlong conversation, he offered a kind of closing argument in his own defense.

GIULIANI: You'll find out this is true. I didn't do anything wrong. I did what a lawyer is supposed to do for his client. And I am a dogged, 24-hour-a-day investigator when I get on something. So I may have done it with more enthusiasm and with more intensity, but everything I did, I can completely justify.

INSKEEP: Mayor Giuliani, thanks for the time.

GIULIANI: You're welcome.

INSKEEP: The onetime mayor of New York lingered with us afterward, posed for a portrait and let us leaf through a book of photos showing him with the president's other lawyers. And then Rudolph W. Giuliani walked over to the elevator, heading downstairs and out the door for another interview. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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