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Nicolais: How Rudy Giuliani broke my heart

After hearing recent impeachment testimony that detailed the former New York City mayor’s actions in Ukraine, I can no longer revere my former boss

Rudy Giuliani and Mario Nicolais.

As potential legal troubles began to swell for Rudy Giuliani a few weeks ago, a liberal parody Twitter account playfully trolled me and suggested I would be perfect to defend the former New York mayor.

The suggestion accompanied a picture of me and Giuliani shaking hands and grinning at the camera with the Brooklyn Bridge in the backdrop.

After listening to the first two days of impeachment testimony, the picture breaks my heart.

Mario Nicolais

Over a decade ago, fresh out of law school I took a job in the New York headquarters for Giuliani’s presidential campaign. It represented a dream come true for me. 

For years I admired Giuliani. Comfortable and confident in his own skin, Giuliani represented the type of Republican I hoped the party would evolve into.

He had lived with gay friends and believed they deserved equal rights. He defended reasonable gun-control measures, even as that position remained an apostasy in the party. And after September 11th, his command and leadership in the face of terror made him “America’s Mayor.”

And as a fellow Italian-American, Giuliani’s hard-nosed campaign to prosecute corrupt, organized crime families represented a strong counterpoint to stereotypical views people associate with Italian-Americans.

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Thirty years later, it is obvious Giuliani now embodies the worst practices he once prosecuted.

When President Trump hired Giuliani as his personal attorney, I wrote that it seemed like a “desperate gamble.” Removed by decades from regular court appearances, Giuliani would likely shift Trump’s defense into the court of public opinion. And that’s exactly what happened as Giuliani blanketed television broadcasts with interview after interview in full-throated defense of Trump.

When Trump wondered aloud, “Where is my Roy Cohn?” – the notorious, pugnacious and eventually disbarred McCarthy-era political fixer – Giuliani figuratively answered, “Right here.” 

But Giuliani’s actions related to Ukraine, its U.S. ambassador and the corrupt former prosecutors he aligned himself with crosses another line entirely.

Both current acting Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs George Kent testified that Giuliani actively engaged in a campaign to undermine and smear former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch and formal U.S. policy in the Ukraine. Eventually, he orchestrated Yovanovitch’s removal from office.

None of Giuliani’s actions were calculated to defend Trump. Rather, he hoped to further his client’s re-election efforts by soliciting a foreign government to insert itself into American politics and elections. Post hoc rationalizations that he hoped to combat corruption in Ukraine aren’t only laughable, but a modern-day version of doublespeak.

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The men Giuliani surrounded himself with and worked through include several men now under federal indictment and two Ukraine prosecutors removed for corruption. Employing intimidation, misinformation and character assassination tactics, each would have found themselves at home with the Gambino, Colombo, Lucchese or other “Commission” crime families. Or for that matter, Roger Stone.

Now federal prosecutors from his old stomping grounds in New York have begun to circle around Giuliani himself. Whether he failed to report as a foreign agent or had illegal financial incentives to undermine Yovanovitch, Giuliani likely won’t face charges for the crime he is most guilty of committing. 

Giuliani has committed treason, if not according to the letter of the law, then in spirit. 

Giuliani put his own interests ahead of the nation’s best interests. He conspired with individuals denounced by multiple countries as corrupt international actors. He constructed a “highly irregular” second channel of communication with Ukraine that undermined formal U.S. policy. He laid the groundwork for the constitutional crisis in which we now find our country enveloped.

I spent years idolizing Rudy Giuliani for the career he built and the ideologies he represented. I swallowed hard when he agreed to represent Trump and understood everyone deserves a legal defense, no matter how unorthodox and ineffective.

But Giuliani’s recent actions have destroyed any reverence that remained. My heart breaks for the man he once was in my eyes; however, it has closed to the man he is now.


Mario Nicolais is an attorney and columnist who writes on law enforcement, the legal system, health care and public policy. Follow him on Twitter: @MarioNicolaiEsq


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