Clashes between Rudy Giuliani and Joe Biden go back decades, starting in the early days of Ronald Reagan’s administration and eventually leading to Ukraine and President Trump’s impeachment.
For months, Giuliani, 75, has touted damning evidence of corruption in Ukraine linked to Biden, 77.
“If you’re going to go on national television and tell the country that you found evidence of a cover-up, then I hope you know what you’re talking about,” Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said last week. “So I’m going to have an open invitation to Rudy Giuliani to come to the Senate Judiciary Committee and tell us what you found. And if he comes, you gotta be willing to ask questions about your conduct. It’s just not good for the country to make these accusations on cable television without them being tested.”
A spokesman for the Democratic front-runner said earlier this year that “bringing forward noted conspiracist and liar Rudy Giuliani would further discredit the reputation of the Senate Judiciary Committee under Senator Graham.”
During the July 25 phone call which led to a whistleblower complaint and an impeachment effort, immediately after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky expressed interest in purchasing anti-tank weaponry, Trump asked Zelensky “to do us a favor” to look into CrowdStrike and any possible Ukrainian election interference in 2016. Trump also urged Zelensky to investigate “the other thing,” referring to allegations of corruption related to Joe and Hunter Biden, telling Zelensky to speak with Attorney General William Barr and Giuliani.
In recent days, Giuliani has tweeted that “evidence revealed that corruption in 2016 was so extensive it was POTUS’s DUTY to ask for US-Ukraine investigation” and that “impeachment is part of Dem cover-up.”
The first major clash between Giuliani and Biden appears to have occurred nearly four decades ago, during President Ronald Reagan’s first term in 1983, when then-Associate Attorney General Rudy Giuliani thought then-Sen. Joe Biden was stepping on the Justice Department’s turf.
Biden pushed for and passed in the Senate a Cabinet-level drug czar position to coordinate all federal efforts combating illegal narcotics, something Giuliani condemned as “possibly unconstitutional” and said “it is shocking and irresponsible that legislation making these kinds of changes was passed without a single hearing in Congress and without any kind of thoughtful consideration.” Giuliani, who as DOJ’s No. 3 was helping lead the department’s efforts to push back against the high levels of crime plaguing the United States in the 1980s, called Biden’s plan to reshuffle the executive branch “naive, simplistic, and hopelessly flawed” while claiming it was opposed by “all law-enforcement agencies that have drug responsibility” and would’ve resulted in “conflict and confusion.”
Biden defended the drug czar proposal, with his office responding to Giuliani’s criticisms by saying “there is absolutely nothing illegal” about what he’d done and claiming many federal law enforcement members supported the “critically important anti-crime bill.”
Reagan pocket-vetoed the measure, saying it would have hurt efforts to combat drug abuse and “was enacted hastily without thoughtful debate and without benefit of any hearings.” Biden lamented that the DOJ “just channeled its efforts toward discrediting this legislation.”
Reagan ended up signing a bill creating a drug czar in 1988, but by that time, Giuliani had accepted an appointment to be U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, where he put together high-profile prosecutions, including of Wall Street executives and mafia members in New York’s “Five Families.” Giuliani lost a close mayoral race against David Dinkins in 1989 — where Biden campaigned for Dinkins — but Giuliani won the 1993 rematch.
Biden pushed for a comprehensive crime bill in the ’80s and ’90s, and the culmination of those efforts was briefly shot down in 1994, much to the anger of President Bill Clinton and Democrats. Giuliani, the new mayor of New York City, offered to help revive the bill and push it through, meeting with Clinton at the White House, lobbying for the bill, and serving as an intermediary between Clinton and wary Republicans.
During the signing ceremony at the White House, Vice President Al Gore noted Biden’s years of fighting for the bill and thanked Giuliani. Clinton didn’t mention Biden by name, though he did specifically thank Giuliani and other mayors who’d helped lobby for the bill.
Since launching his presidential run in 2019, Biden has reversed himself on much of what he pushed for in his signature bill. Biden flip-flopped on the death penalty in the fall, calling for its end despite being among the Senate’s most vocal supporters, bragging in the 1990s that in one of his proposals, “we do everything but hang people for jaywalking.”
As recently as 2000, Biden claimed credit for passing “the first federal death penalty” following the Supreme Court’s 1972 ruling which voided capital punishment laws, and Biden’s crime bill reached 60 new death penalty offenses when it passed in 1994.
Giuliani’s performance in the wake of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, earned the outgoing NYC mayor praise, with Oprah Winfrey popularizing the “America’s Mayor” moniker for Giuliani during a memorial service at Yankees Stadium. Giuliani’s popularity within the Republican Party led him to seek its nomination for the 2008 presidential race while Biden sought the Democratic Party’s nomination for a second time. During much of 2007, Giuliani was the GOP front-runner.
In an October 2007 Democratic debate, then-Sen. Hillary Clinton was asked about Giuliani’s criticisms of her leadership experience, and Biden was asked about his own critiques of Clinton, but he turned the answer around on Giuliani.
“I’m not running against Hillary Clinton. I’m running to lead the free world. I’m running to lead this country. And the irony is Rudy Giuliani, probably the most underqualified man since George Bush to seek the presidency, is here talking about any of the people here. I mean, think about it. Rudy Giuliani. There’s only three things he mentions in a sentence: a noun, a verb, and 9/11. I mean, there’s nothing else,” Biden said.
Biden added that Giuliani “brags about how he made the city safe” but claimed “it was the Biden crime bill, that became the Clinton crime bill, that allowed him to do that.”
Giuliani’s campaign communications director blasted Biden after taking aim at his use of prepared speeches, a clear reference to accusations of plagiarism which dogged Biden’s attempt for the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination and forced him to drop out in 1987.
Giuliani and Biden would both fare poorly in their respective primaries, but Biden joined then-Sen. Barack Obama’s successful presidential ticket.
The acrimony between the two continued during the 2012 presidential race.
During an August 2012 rally in Virginia, Biden was speaking before an audience with a significant number of black rallygoers, and he made what was widely seen as a racially tinged attack on former Gov. Mitt Romney and Rep. Paul Ryan.
“Look at what they value and look at their budget and what they’re proposing. Romney wants to let the — he said in the first hundred days he’s gonna let the big banks once again write their own rules,” Biden said. “Unchain Wall Street! They’re gonna put y’all back in chains.”
The comment by Biden dominated the political news for days, and Giuliani was perhaps Biden’s most visible critic, criticizing him and questioning if he was fit enough to be president on Face the Nation, CNBC, and Meet the Press, among others.
“Somebody had to get outraged and it’s going to be me,” Giuliani told CNN.
Biden defended himself by saying that “the last time these guys unshackled the economy, to use their term, they put the middle class in shackles — that’s how we got where we are … I’m using their own words.”
Obama and Biden won reelection handily.
The Trump Presidency
Biden decided not to run in 2016, and Trump defeated Clinton in a surprise victory.
It was widely believed Giuliani wanted to be secretary of state, but he was passed over. Giuliani instead joined Trump’s legal team that April, helping him during special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, and began looking into Ukraine as part of the defense. Giuliani focused on Hunter Biden’s lucrative position on the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma and on Biden bragging about getting Ukraine to fire in 2016 former prosecutor Viktor Shokin, who was widely seen by the U.S., Europe, the International Monetary Fund, and inside Ukraine as a hindrance to fighting corruption.
Giuliani spoke with Shokin in January 2019 and met with his controversial successor, Yuriy Lutsenko, in New York City in January 2019 then in Warsaw in February 2019. In March, Giuliani tweeted that the “real collusion” was between Biden, Clinton, and John Kerry, who were “colluding with Ukrainian operatives to make money and affect 2016 election.”
Giuliani’s planned trip to Ukraine in May became national news at the time, with the New York Times reporting Giuliani wanted Ukraine to investigate 2016 and the Bidens and Burisma. Giuliani said that “we’re not meddling in an election, we’re meddling in an investigation.”
“Explain to me why Biden shouldn’t be investigated if his son got millions from a Russian loving crooked Ukrainian oligarch while he was VP and point man for Ukraine,” Giuliani tweeted in May in response to a Democratic senator. “Ukrainians are investigating and your fellow Dems are interfering. Election is 17 months away. Let’s answer it now.”
Biden’s team claimed in October that “everything out of Rudy Giuliani’s mouth is just a noun, a verb, and disproven lie about Joe Biden.”
In early December, Giuliani met with Lutsenko in Hungary and then with Shokin in Ukraine, and in a video series with One America News, he claimed to have proof of Biden corruption and Ukrainian election meddling.
The House of Representatives has not yet sent its Ukraine-related articles of impeachment on abuse of power and obstruction of Congress over to the Senate, but some sort of trial is still expected in January. Republicans say Giuliani will not be called as a witness during the impeachment trial, but whether he testifies before Congress at some point about what he has allegedly uncovered on Biden remains to be seen.
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