The two most prominent lawyers engaged in the defense of Donald Trump may now be feuding. Even as Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani was in Ukraine this week supposedly gathering information for a television documentary designed to exonerate Trump of the impeachment-related allegations, Attorney General William Barr was reportedly encouraging his boss to cut ties with the former New York mayor.
According to a Washington Post report on Sunday, Barr has “counseled Trump in general terms” that Giuliani has become a “liability,” warning that the administration has not been “well served” by his personal lawyer’s activities.
Barr has been conducting his own inquiry into the investigation of Trump’s Russia connections during the 2016 presidential campaign. Both Trump and Barr have expressed suspicions that the FBI somehow acted improperly in initiating the Russia probe, which in May 2017 was passed on to special counsel Robert Mueller.
Barr’s investigation, according to reports, has yet to turn up any evidence that Trump was somehow “set up” by the FBI. But Giuliani has taken a different approach to defending Trump.
Giuliani has aggressively pursued a pair of widely debunked claims, both relating to Ukraine. According to one of the claims, it was Ukraine rather than Russia that interfered in the 2016 election. Giuliani has also pursued allegations that Trump’s potential 2020 election opponent, Democrat Joe Biden, engaged in some sort of “corruption” in Ukraine.
Giuliani has also taken his claims to the media, but according to the Post report, Trump remains resistant to Barr’s calls to dump his personal lawyer. In fact, Trump has told close associates that he “appreciates” Giuliani’s public statements on his behalf, according to The Post.
The difference between Giuliani’s approach to Trump’s defense, and Barr’s, is that “Barr hasn’t committed any crimes,” former federal prosecutor Elie Honig told the site Politico.
“Rudy has gone into legal grey areas and potentially beyond in his quest to help Trump,” Honig told Politico, adding that Barr is “not a criminal.”
The rift between Barr and Giuliani appears to have formed following the September 24 release by the White House of a partial transcript of Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky.
That call is at the center of the impeachment inquiry against Trump. During it, he appears to suggest holding up military aide to Ukraine in order to get “a favor” from Zelensky. That favor would be opening investigations into Biden and the supposed Ukraine interference in the 2016 election.
But in that same call, Trump asks Zelensky to talk to both Giuliani and Barr about the supposed investigations.
Following that revelation, Barr moved quickly to distance himself from Giuliani and denied that he had communicated with Ukraine “on this or any other subject,” according to a Justice Department spokesperson quoted by Politico.