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Remember That Time When Giuliani Fought To Protect Undocumented Immigrants?


At first, I agreed:

In second thought, though, the addition to Giuliani to the legal team is a big nope. The truth is that Rudy Giuliani, for all that he has accomplished in his career, is a disastrous choice to represent Donald Trump in any criminal matter. Giuliani may have convinced his newest client that he can “negotiate an end” to the Russia probe, but Mueller is bound to have noticed that Giuliani has proven himself to be erratic, flippant, and downright laughable in the recent past.

Anyone who was familiar with Rudy Giuliani’s career before he became “America’s Mayor” during post-9/11 hysterical patriotism is bound to notice Rudy’s propensity to make ideological about-faces as dramatically as, well, Donald Trump.

Giuliani was a blunt and sometimes brash communicator, but his positions on issues were always rooted in logic, law, and reality. One of the former mayor’s most publicized legal battles centered on the role of undocumented immigrants in the city he led. In 1997, federal law attempted to eliminate so-called “sanctuary cities.” Giuliani had been quick to stand up for New York’s immigrant population, saying:

“Some of the hardest-working and most productive people in this city are undocumented aliens. If you come here and you work hard and you happen to be in an undocumented status, you’re one of the people who we want in this city. You’re somebody that we want to protect, and we want you to get out from under what is often a life of being like a fugitive, which is really unfair.”

Giuliani sued the federal government over its position on immigrants, arguing that without the protection of law, undocumented immigrants might refuse to send their children to school, report crimes to the police or seek treatment for contagious diseases – choices that could cause wide-scale public health and safety problems for New York City. Giuliani regularly included these arguments in support of immigration, and even said in  campaign speeches:

“The federal government will be forced to argue that it has to treat undocumented immigrants unfairly in order to discourage others from coming here. Attempting to control immigration by creating a disincentive for a woman to report to the police that she has been beaten up by her husband is a very weak argument. And it’s a horrible position for the federal government to take.”

Giuliani’s stance, informed and nuanced, reasonable and pragmatic, couldn’t have been farther from the rhetoric of the Trump presidential campaign. And yet, Giuliani embraced Trump and his xenophobia without the slightest apology for the inconsistency or irony.

Giuliani’s past perception of immigrant populations as hard-working valuable contributors to American society had also been underscored by his public disdain for the cultural phenomenon of romanticized organized crime. He had called for those of Italian heritage, like myself, to reject the Vito Corleones and Tony Sopranos, and to insist that our heroes were firmly grounded in the rule of law. If you’d asked me back then, when I worked as part of Mayor Giuliani’s legal team of justice-seekers, I’d have said that Donald Trump was just the kind of villain Rudy would hate most.   Trump’s bully tactics, childish rants, and obsession with loyalty and strength would disgust the man who’d driven a stake through the heart of the mafia.

But ironically, as 9/11 catapulted Rudy Giuliani into the national spotlight, so too did it mark the end of the leader he had been.   9/11 transformed Giuliani the public servant into an icon who simultaneously personified New York’s victims and New York’s heroes. His star power became irresistible to another celebrity who had appropriated New York City as part of his image – Donald Trump.

Giuliani was never, by any means, a progressive icon. He was, throughout his career, criticized for both substance and style. However, whether or not one agreed with the man’s goals, Giuliani pursued those ends with reasonable and pragmatic interpretations of law, and deference to well-settled legal and governmental principles.

After Giuliani got the tough news that he was no longer in the running for a Trump cabinet position, Giuliani continued as a rich businessman who earns a living delivering incendiary speeches and providing questionably vague “consulting” to foreign governments. He has made public statements that President Obama “doesn’t love” the American people, and “wasn’t brought up the way” real Americans were. He boarded the Trump Train without ever addressing the troubling campaign rhetoric promising to disregard law on a massive scale.

In many ways, Giuliani parallels Trump himself — a cult of personality and trusted brand that is as inconsistent as it is popular.   Now, the president has hired Giuliani to be something that Rudy has never been – a schmoozing, persuasive dealmaker. The idea that Robert Mueller, also a former federal prosecutor, will respond to “a little push” from Giuliani is beyond absurd. Rudy Giuliani may pack some star power on the campaign trail, but I doubt Mueller will be impressed. My money is on any meeting between the two being short and totally unproductive.

People, even politicians, are allowed to change their minds. But radical shifts in philosophy on the scale that Rudy Giuliani has demonstrated are not a good look for a serious lawyer.


This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.

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Elura is a columnist and trial analyst for Law & Crime. Elura is also a former civil prosecutor for NYC's Administration for Children's Services, the CEO of Lawyer Up, and the author of How To Talk To Your Lawyer and the Legalese-to-English series. Follow Elura on Twitter @elurananos