In August it was revealed the Rudy Giuliani had written a letter to Romanian president Klaus Iohannis regarding the country’s anti-corruption practices. The circumstances surrounding that letter, along with several other actions by Giuliani since February 2017, have raised quite a few eyebrows. Should Giuliani’s foreign work cause concern?
In the letter to President Iohannis, Giuliani – former U.S. Attorney, former mayor of New York, and current attorney for President Trump – voiced concern that the ongoing anti-corruption measures by the National Anti-Corruption Directorate (DNA) are overreaching their authority, especially the harassing of judges and witnesses, and what he calls secret protocols. Giuliani also said that while he applauds the efforts of anti-corruption in the country, they should be done in a lawful manner, and DNA’s methods were beyond law and order. Also included in Giuliani’s letter was his specific concern about DNA’s anti-corruption methods damaging foreign investment in Romania.
Days after news of the letter surfaced, Giuliani confessed he had been paid by the Freeh Group, and wrote the letter as an acting contractor for the group. The Freeh Group is a private consultancy firm founded by former F.B.I. director Louis Freeh. According to the group’s website, the Freeh Group is a “global risk management firm serving in the areas of business integrity and compliance, safety and security, and investigations and due diligence.” A week before Giuliani’s letter, Freeh, in an interview with Forbes, outlined a five point plan to restore rule of law in Romania. In August 2017, Louis Freeh was hired to represent Gabriel “Puiu” Popoviciu, a Romanian real estate investor convicted of fraud and corruption in Romania under the anti-corruption laws.
Romania established the National Anti-Corruption Directorate in 2002 to combat the widespread corruption in an attempt at “reducing corruption in support of a democratic society close to European values.” Since its inception, DNA has prosecuted thousands of cases, and has been praised by both the European Union and the United States in its efforts to fight corruption in Romania, one of the most corrupt countries in Europe. There have been those critical of DNA, accusing them of extrajudicial methods. One person who has publicly criticized the courts is Louis Freeh, on behalf of Gabriel Popoviciu.
So, why then, would the Freeh Group contract Rudy Giuliani to write a letter to the Romanian president regarding DNA’s practices, as well as expressing concern about foreign investment in Romania? One possibility is as simple as money. Giuliani was paid to write a letter, just as Giuliani – through his security firm – has been paid by other groups to lobby on their behalf. What is emerging is a pattern of Giuliani working for foreign groups or individuals.
Prior to the Romanian letter, Giuliani gave a speech in Paris to Iranian resistance group Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MeK) in June, during which he told the crowd “[w]e are now realistically being able to see an end to the regime in Iran.” This incident was under scrutiny for possibly violating the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) because Giuliani had been paid for his speech. MeK, which had been on the U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations until 2012, also has an advocate in current National Security Advisor John Bolton. The group is supportive of regime change in Iran, a move Bolton supports as well.
In February 2017, Giuliani met with Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan concerning a case of Giuliani’s. At the time, Giuliani, and attorney Michael Mukasey, were representing a Turkish businessman who was charged with violating U.S. sanctions. Giuliani and Mukasey had hoped to secure the release of Reza Zarreb in exchange for Turkey helping further U.S. interests in the region.
Most recently, Giuliani’s company has reportedly been retained by Hennadiy Kernes, mayor of the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, and member of the pro-Russian Party of Regions. During a November 2017 meeting in Kharkiv, Giuliani and Kernes spoke about crime and security solutions for the city, such as a DNA database, and a 911-type emergency service. It should be noted that Kernes was a supporter of Putin-surrogate and former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, openly backing the violent crackdowns on protestors in early 2014, and briefly fled to Russia after the fall of the Yanukovych regime. Kernes is also reportedly involved with organized crime in Kharkiv, although he has thus far escaped all criminal charges.
Another reason Freeh may have tapped Giuliani the write the letter is because he is President Trump’s attorney, and that fact may carry weigh in influencing the Romania government even though he is not acting on behalf of the president or the United States. Giuliani had been acting as a surrogate for Trump since the 2016 presidential campaign. Giuliani may have only begun representing President Trump legally since April 2018, but he has had his ear for some time. If he is working on behalf of himself and his company, it can be perfectly legal, provided all appropriate FARA paperwork is in order. Ethical and legal problems arise if he is using his status as advisor and counsel to gain access to information for personal gain, or if he is acting as an unofficial diplomat, lobbying the U.S. government on behalf of his clients. The letter to the Romanian president is just the latest incident under scrutiny, and one that has now caught the eye of a group of Senators, led by Tammy Duckworth, demanding the Department of Justice look into Giuliani’s foreign ties.