The Unaddressed Counterintelligence Threat of Rudy Giuliani

The name “Giuliani” shows up, unredacted, just five times in the SSCI Russia Report:

  • A reference to a meeting that Rudy had with Paul Manafort and Trump at 5:30 PM on August 2, 2016, the last thing on Manafort’s calendar before he met with Konstantin Kilimnik to discuss how to win the Midwest, share campaign polling data, and carve up Ukraine.
  • A citation to a Rick Gates 302 that describes that Manafort was relying on Rudy, along with Jared Kushner, in his efforts to try to place people in the new Administration.
  • A footnote citing this story describing Rudy’s meetings with Andrii Telizhenko as part of his search for dirt in support of Trump’s 2020 re-election. The footnote is one of the few unredacted passages in an 8-page section that is part of a larger section describing Manafort’s follow-up on that August 2, 2016 meeting on Ukraine.
  • A footnote describing an email — involving Rudy, Hope Hicks, Dan Scavino, and Stephen Miller — used as an example of Trump’s team incorporating stolen information released by WikiLeaks into Trump’s tweets.
  • A footnote sourcing a rather incredible claim from Psy Group’s Joel Zamel that he first met Jared Kushner via an introduction, months after inauguration, from Rudy.

I raise this not because I think there’s any direct tie between Russia and the coup this week (though I find it interesting that of those scripting WikiLeaks information into Trump tweets, all but Hicks may be seeking a pardon). This coup was an all-American affair, with roots in racist extremism that goes back before the Civil War. Someday, six months from today, we can talk about how this attack was consistent with events started over four years ago, with all the same players in starring roles. But these are American fascists running the show, not Russians.

I raise it, instead, to point out that the single most sustained review of the danger that some of Trump’s closest advisors pose to his presidency almost entirely excluded  one who played the key role in the post-election period, the purported lawyer who — at every step of the way — encouraged the President to take more and more extreme measures to hold on his power.

This coup attempt happened, in significant part, because Rudy had almost unfettered access to the President, Rudy was one of few people who never lost his trust, and Rudy always encouraged the worst decisions from Trump.

73 replies
  1. P J Evans says:

    They seem to tiptoe around him, like they believe he really is “America’s mayor” or something. Maybe it’s because of the other people he knows.

  2. BobCon says:

    People throw the term Kompromat around much too lightly and jump to it as an all-encompassing explanation, seeing Putin behind every curtain.

    But in the case of Giuliani, I think the probabilities are a lot higher.

  3. John Langston says:

    Odd that Rudy & Trump confused Tuberville’s number with Lee’s.

    BTW- Rudy’s phone message said that Tommy only needed to stall for a few hours and that Trump would deliver the needed “proof” about election fraud. I guess Tommy is (or is it Mike?) still waiting.

    • dude says:

      I know it is silly to ask a sensible question about what Rudy said in the phone call, but I cannot help myself. What ‘proof’ could Rudy provide to legislatures (or legislators) in next 8 to 18 hrs after the call that would be any different than what he tried to offer in the courts in the preceding weeks? I mean, he surely tried to circulate that information to all Republican colleagues in the contested states long, long before that call. Rudy is a natural blabbermouth. His binders of crap were filled to over-flowing. Somebody should ask him just what was different about any new load of crap he was peddling and why he thought it would make any difference.

      • Marinela says:

        No proof is needed for their base. They wanted to delay the process, so that Trump could intervene in some way.
        They needed the delay, to at least claim that Congress is unable to resolve this step.
        Also, the mob rally at the Capitol is useful for Trump to show his base he is fighting for them. He gets the credit, is a performance for the base, about the money he raised to fight the steal, nobody is going to question where the money went. It doesn’t matter that people died, collateral damage.
        Perhaps there are more pieces to the puzzle that didn’t materialize yet, I tend to believe the de-platforming is going to minimize the risk for the near future.

      • manbearpig says:

        My uneducated $0.02 is that Rudy/Trump were pushing on state legislatures to overturn the electoral results at the state level and planned on using the Capitol militia coverage to persuade them that they would have support in DC. Once they had enough state legislatures on board, Rudy/Trump would then call members of the House & Senate to encourage more disputes of results in DC.

        • dude says:

          Rachel Maddow did a follow-up tonight about the sudden departure of the Georgia-based US Attorney Byung Pak who was forced out by the White House. She said the NYT has reported the man has now been replaced by a handpicked Trump attorney and who has been directed to find voting fraud in Georgia.

          I am thinking this may be connected to the “new evidence” Rudy was trying to put in place if he could get the ballot certification slowed down in Congress. If fake evidence could be produced, Osoff’s and Warnock’s legitimacy would be undermined and the Republicans would maintain their Senate majority longer.

          • Rayne says:

            Except that the Georgia election has already been recounted twice, survived lawsuits, and been certified both by the state and Congress. Pak quit the day before Osoff and Warnock’s election so that he could not be ordered to “find” evidence. The person now performing the duties of GA US Atty hasn’t been nominated and confirmed by the Senate, have they? Are they in the same position Chad Wolf has been with DHS, not a lawful appointee and therefore illegitimate?

            • dude says:

              I did not hear whether the new appointment is properly confirmed, only that he was tasked (per NYT) to go find dirt (‘open an investigation’). I assumed the new guy is just a deputy of the old guy, so his credentials would be in order.

              Since Georgia certified their vote and Congress was counting ballots, and since some states were being urged to delay the count, then “new evidence” might have helped that delay process (Tuberville is Alabama–before the Georgia in the deliberations.) Even if Rudy’s call was after Georgia’s ballot, Warnock and Osoff would not be sworn in until these ballots were approved by Congress, so Rudy still had time to throw shade on the legitimacy of the count in Georgia if “new evidence” could be trotted out in the press–possibly delay them being sworn in. Rudy has tried crazier things to curry favor. End of my speculation.

    • Marji Campbell says:

      I don’t want to jump into CT land, but some of the terrorists really did want to kill legislators and also stop the certification. And I’m pretty sure there was inside help for some of it. What if the alleged stall wasn’t to bring *evidence *, but to keep the lawmakers trapped just a bit longer so the rabble could get to them…. on another note, I’m a clinical psychologist soon to retire, and I had been thinking about volunteering to work on deprogramming trump cultists. But now, I’m not sure I could stomach it.

      • John Langston says:

        That was in the back of my mind when I mentioned it. Just a stall.

        Can you imagine if the mob had captured or killed members of Congress. And then Trump shows up in a tank after the carnage and announces martial law and installs himself as president.

        You had to know that was his plan if the opportunity arose but “plausible deniability” otherwise. It actually seems pretty obvious.

      • PeterS says:

        How’s this for a conspiracy theory: with a few
        Democratic congressmen incapacitated there’s a Republican majority in the house to uphold objections, then the Senate is tempted to use its majority to do the same and install Trump. I don’t believe the theory but do fear that there is a worryingly large number of Trump fanatics that have been so radicalised that they would see murder as a justified means to an end.

        • John Langston says:

          Or just claim a mass murder disaster and claim congress is dysfunctional and declare martial law. Nothing as subtle as counting votes.

        • Ginevra diBenci says:

          There IS a large number of people who currently support Trump who have been sufficiently radicalized (almost all online) to justify, plan and encourage mass murder. What we saw January 6 was just the spear’s semi-organized tip. And what I’m seeing is a growing willingness to set Trump aside if necessary, typically in the name of “God,” although it seems to me that anyone with a credible claim to being “Q” will serve. They want a leader. In a vacuum they will find one.

          • Rayne says:

            That’s exactly why Cruz, Hawley, and other figures in the seditionist’ universe need to be thoroughly dressed down. Any authority attached to them needs to be broken.

  4. Scott says:

    Rudy being Trump’s controller/point-of-contact for Russia….like, seconding BobCon there. The man was baited by *Borat*. There’s no way he hasn’t been the errand boy this whole time. 2-to1 odds he’s doing everything he can for that sweet, sweet pardon cuz America’s Mayor got taped boning 13-year-old Russian honeypots.

    • graham firchlis says:


      Assumes facts not in evidence.

      Doubt the old fool can manage more than a chubby, even with chemical assistance. For all of his attempted fuckery, he has consistently exposed himself as utterly limp.

        • chum'sfriend says:

          Pedo-isle? You probably weren’t thinking of the Dominican Republic, known for its child sex trafficking. But it is a chance to remind everyone of Rush Limbaugh returning through customs with a half empty bottle of Viagra.

    • BobCon says:

      I don’t think Giuliani is a transmission wire for Putin to give orders to Trump. If nothing else, Russia knows how insecure Rudy is. But I can believe Giuliani may have been leaned on, and knows he is supposed to destabilize and egg on Trump, even at the cost of his own legal peril at the hands of prosecutors in the US..

  5. jerryy says:

    So where do the intelligence agencies go from here?

    After all, they rightly pointed out what a threat the right wing extremists were, only to be told ‘nah, do not dare bother them, go chase after the left leaning folks, the human rights activists, the environmental activists, the …’.

    A fact that Marcy pointed out on a number of occasions … if anyone should be allowed to write an I told you so column it is her.

    • Montana Voter says:

      Don’t kid yourself the intelligence agencies didn’t stop their work because the Trump people tried to squelch the dissemination of the information. With new leadership things will change. The bigger problem is how compromised are they from within like the FBI guys working against Hillary Clinton in the 2016 campaign. There is a lot of rot in some of these organizations.

      • blueedredcounty says:

        Thank you for posting this, Montana Voter. There is a huge clean-up required, across the country.

        I think it is ironic about all the right-wing “Deep State” propaganda they claim is everywhere EXCEPT on the political right, with no evidence or the most ridiculous claims imaginable. I guess it makes it easier to hide the real fascists and conspirators in plain sight.

  6. Sam says:

    The “Mayor” (Rudy doesn’t deserve the title without some sort of grammatical grain of salt) may in fact be nefarious; but I think the truth is somewhere closer to an extremely opportunistic has-been, desperately searching for that one last bit of relevance and glory.

    • AndTheSlithyToves says:

      Not to mention “cash” for the three ex-wives and possible paramours from over the years. (And his dumb-a$$ed kid may still be in the White House.

  7. earthworm says:

    the posts are so thick with political thinking and hypotheses that i didn’t immediately notice the site improvements!
    thanks to all the principals’ work and bravura intelligence here at emptywheel.

  8. madwand says:

    White House announced Trump is going to the wall this week, he’ll stir the pot I expect. Perhaps egg on another attack. White House is declaring promise made, promise kept, except Mexico hasn’t paid their share and it’s not anywhere near completed.

    • earthworm says:

      internet humor:
      after wednesday’s events, Mexico has decided they WILL pay for the wall.
      and Canada wants one too.

      • e.a.f. says:

        well sitting here in Canada, some of us have discussed the need for a wall, then of course Biden/Harris were elected. anyhow its a tad cold in most of Canada right now, so its doubtful any one will want to make the “invasion”. O.K. B.C. is warmer but really we’re the godless socialist province with the NDP in office. yes, we’re left of the Dems. they definitely won’t want to go to Quebec. they’re required to speak French. Service in English is hard to come by and COVID is on the up tick so the premier of Quebec instituted curfews and they said they’d arrest those out after the curfew came into effect so “invading” Canada is out of the question.

        We have gun laws in Canada. None of those insurgents will want to come into Canada, they have to give up their guns. We hand out medical cards, but most of those insurgents don’t appear to be in favour of government health care. the other issue they may find difficult is a lot of land is owned the Crown. when ever some one starts to talk about separating from Canada, as we have seen in Quebec and Alberta the First Nations like to remind the seperatists, they can leave, but the First Nations have no plans to and they have a fair amount of land or traditional territory in the country. there has to be negotiations about use of the traditional lands of the Indigenous people. If you don’t negotiate in a meaningful manner its the Supreme Court of Canada for you and they aren’t like the American Supreme Court.

        They won’t like it here. they’ll be required to say “sorry’ a lot and excuse me. They’ll have to stand in line and not butt in. They can’t riot unless its after a hockey game gone bad, like your team lost. if you’re in B.C. cutting into line in traffic is a no, no. You alternate. that just isnt’ going to work for these idiots. I hope this has been covered well enough for Canada.

        If the insurgents want to go into Mexico, it is doubtful the cartels will welcome them and we know what the cartels do when they are unhappy with people. well perhaps some of those insurgents along with trump could be directed to Mexico and ask the cartels to deal with them. Its just a thought late at night.

        • Montana Voter says:

          Man, that 400 mile drive to the Port of Raymond doesn’t sounds so bad right now. I’ve had several conversations with colleagues about Canadien political norms being so solid. I thought the same about the US until Trump showed up. Protect what you have. We took it for granted and now everything has changed forever. Eh?

  9. Arthur M. says:

    IMO the roots of Trump’s base are fellow citizens who have been slowly brainwashed for multiple generations by American fascist propaganda such as the John Birch Society, Rush Limbaugh, and Fox News is playing on TV at how many military bases right now? Since the end of World War II, American fascists such as the Texas oil barons, the Koch brothers, and many billionaires, have poured money to fund generations of propaganda indoctrinating Americans with right-wing extremism. Russians have ALSO supported the American fascist movement, starting with Joseph McCarthy. When a democracy gets pushed into fascism, from a Marxist view of the world, that’s late-stage capitalism; near the collapse. From the beginning of the Cold War to the present day, Russian interests have converged with American fascists’ interests. Together they have joined forces to spread racism, xenophobia and paranoia, to keep Americans afraid of socialism (so America keeps its for-profit health care system that is inferior to the system of the Soviet Union,) to tilt American foreign policy towards misadventures and wars of choice, and to generally keep Americans ever more divided and weak. I don’t know what the American fascists call it, but a few generations of this, the Russians would call the softening up of America. Because Trump’s coup happened not to succeed, January 6 was just more softening up.

      • dude says:

        Bingo! And the Chad Mitchell Trio used to sing about them. And Dylan got all paranoid about the the BIrchers!

        • Vinnie Gambone says:

          Regarding assumption of facts not in evidence. What crime could Rudy possibly be charged with?
          Assault with a dead weapon ?

        • P J Evans says:

          “We’ll be meeting at the courthouse at 8 o’clock tonight:
          You just go through the door and take the first turn to the right.
          Be careful when you get there: we’d hate to be bereft,
          But we’re taking down the names of everybody turning left!”

          • pasha says:

            “we’ll teach you how to spot ’em,
            in the city or the sticks,
            why, even jasper junction is just full of bolsheviks!
            you cannot trust your neighbor,
            or even next of kin:
            if mommy is a commie
            then you gotta turn her in!”

      • Epicurus says:

        Pretty funny. I grew up a couple miles from the original John Birch HQ which was located in Belmont, MA. Belmont is the next town over from Cambridge, MA. A teenage friend was an Ayn Rand nut and a John Birch supporter. At his suggestion I once went over to the HQs to see who was there. No one as it turned out and it was quieter than a reading room in any public library with a lot of pamphlets that made no sense. Mitt Romney lived a hop, skip, and a jump away from that HQ location.

        The roots of Trump’s base are what I call first-in, last out children. The first thing they absorbed is the last thing out of their head. Since they are constantly absorbing new stuff, they obviously have never given up the first things they ever absorbed. Tantrums come to mind so we have mostly government by tantrum now with pols throwing tantrums because that is what their supporters are doing. It is a mutually supporting and reinforcing condition. Trump after all is the chief tantrum thrower. All the rioters in DC were throwing a giant tantrum. Guliani absorbed the bogey men concept early on and obviously hasn’t let go. So bogey men and tantrums rule our governmental roost. But supporters get to have guns! It’s simply a cuckoo’s nest. The chief cuckoo will be gone shortly but there are many tantrum throwing cuckoos that remain: Hawly, Cruz, Jordan, Gohmert leap to mind. No way to clean out the nest, unfortunately.

      • Overshire says:

        The Bircher memories keep floating to the top lately. Who imagined then they would be the heart and soul of the Republican Party in 60 years?

        • Wayne says:

          Ah, my father used to tell me about the Birch John Society. Something about wooden toilet seats . . .

          Seriously, many, many years ago I visited one of their (really, really) small reading rooms in the town I grew up in. Too young to understand some of what I saw, thankfully. Something not giving Panama the Canal and giving them Kissinger, instead.

    • Savage Librarian says:

      Arthur M., as you say:

      “I don’t know what the American fascists call it, but a few generations of this, the Russians would call the softening up of America. Because Trump’s coup happened not to succeed, January 6 was just more softening up.”

      That comment of yours reminded me of Mikhail Morgulis, someone who came up early in the Russia discussions. Here’s an article (with some erroneous assumptions that have since been corrected in other sources):

      “Meet the Russian theologian who offered to organize millions of votes for Trump” – ThinkProgress, 2/19/19 – Casey Michel

      “Mikhail Morgulis has a history of lavishing praise on post-Soviet dictators—and of offering his services to the Trump campaign.”
      “One of the few other individuals identified as part of the RACC: Morgulis, whom the Financial Times described as “one of the chamber’s main backers.” As Morgulis told the outlet about Millian and the RACC, “We have soft power and we are trying to change relations now.” (Unlike Lukashenko or Yanukovych, there are no known photos of Morgulis and Russian President Vladimir Putin, although Morgulis posted on YouTube an interview he conducted with Sergei Kislyak, then working as the Russian ambassador to the U.S.)”
      “It remains unclear what role, if any, Morgulis played in whipping up support for Trump in 2016. However, Millian’s communications with Morgulis fit within a broader pattern of trying to use fundamentalist Christianity as a bridge between Moscow and Washington — and of pushing the view that like-minded Christians in both the Kremlin and the White House can repair relations between the U.S. and Russia, as well as lessen American pressure on post-Soviet kleptocracies writ large.”

      • Arthur M. says:

        Thank you for this interesting reading material, I had not heard of Morgulis and will be looking at this! From what I had read, the fascists / Soviets in the JBS heyday, masking themselves as Anti-Communists, saw the growing secularization of America as a political opportunity — they would self-consciously adopt the authority of God. I wonder if the Rev. Billy Hargis may have some things in common with this Morgulis! TY again for the recommendation.

        • Ginevra diBenci says:

          I third that–very much worth the read. Snyder mentions the loss of credible local news sources, something I’ve obsessed about here before. Print journalists all over the country are doing amazing work while threatened with extinction. If you can, please subscribe to an independent paper. Or two. Our future increasingly depends on them. (Disclosure: While I did write for such a paper long ago, I don’t anymore. My plea is self-interested only in the sense that I don’t want to starve from the loss of truth.)

          • Montana Voter says:

            Unfortunately, true independent newspapers have essentially disappeared. Of the five papers in Montana’s population centers 4 are Lee newspapers o die Gannett. Worse yet in Salt Lake City both the Tribune and Deseret News only print a Sunday edition. Corporate greed and right wing ownership have destroyed independent local news.

    • cavenewt says:

      Since the end of World War II, American fascists such as the Texas oil barons, the Koch brothers, and many billionaires, have poured money to fund generations of propaganda indoctrinating Americans with right-wing extremism

      I’m reading a book about this right now, Evil Geniuses by Kurt Andersen. It’s excellent so far; a little harder work than his previous book, the fantastic Fantasyland, a very readable history of the American propensity to gullibility for things like QAnon.

      • Ginevra diBenci says:

        Re: funding. Saw this in NYT:
        The piece discusses how extremely wealthy and powerful hardline (Calvinist) Christians have organized very quietly for years, funneling money into politics when it suits their highly specific vision. Working on my first book gave me a personal connection to this tight affiliate. Seeing them crop up in context of Hawley’s stunt freeze-dried my bone marrow. They have immense power.
        Note: this is my first attempt to post a link. I apologize in advance if I messed it up.

          • Ginevra diBenci says:

            Thank you, vvv! I was rushing in order to make my (phone) therapy appointment so did not have time to check the rules. My therapist gave me a list of “daily questions for quarantine” that included “Have you learned anything today?” Now, thanks to you, I’ve learned something highly useful.

  10. Vinnie Gambone says:

    If you watched the footage when black female officer cracked another female who tried to hit her you will see three dudes grab and escort cop over to cop line. Watching that clip slow mo, those 3 dudes look and behave like law enforcement, -their builds, their actions, their forcus.Especially guy with the mohawk. They snatch cop immediately and deliver her to safety. I saw them as very likely embedded LE . Point being, how can Wray, homeland security report to congress that domestic terrorism is number 1 threat to homeland security and then turn around and NOT insert people undercover into this mob ? This is basic Donny Brasco opportunity. Lordy I hope there’s tapes, I mean undercover operatives here. If there was not then they are either stupid or complicit. Perhaps the worm still turns. I hope so.

    • P J Evans says:

      Probably *not* plants. Cops and military were on the attacking side, because that’s what they believe. Some even brought ID.

    • skua says:

      I saw another “good samaritan” in with the outdoors rioters. They got someone in trouble with the mob away to a safer place.

  11. Joseph M Reynolds says:

    I would hope Bannon’s and Stones’ involvment are being investigated. Also Erik Prince, especailly in regards to the pardons (and the timing) of the Blackwater Nisour Square murderers. Another ‘quid pro quo’ from Trump–“do me a favor” ? Any thoughts?

    • Stacey says:

      I’ve been VERY concerned that he pardoned all of those war criminals and mercenaries exactly for such a thing as this! What better way to recruit the worst of the worst than to pardon them, and the next part is not even hard to imagine: “well, now. It seems you owe me a favor, don’t you?” a small one, since I’ve a hard time imagining they aren’t ideologically aligned with him to begin with. I thought that at the time, ‘oh shit, he’s manning a field of war criminals as his own little mercenary army!’

      • PhoneInducedPinkEye says:

        Read my mind. The recipients might blow off a request from Trump, but I would think they would be more likely to listen to Prince. Heck Prince might be holding other yet unknown atrocities over their heads.

        • Ginevra diBenci says:

          At the very least, he sent the message that “war crimes” don’t exist if those committing them believe in their cause–or their own victimization. The language of war plays a central role among those fomenting these domestic terror acts; recruiting “soldiers” from among believers is how they amassed the Capitol mob (and why, IMO, it devolved into unfocused, fractal violence once inside).

  12. Atomic Shadow says:

    In my opinion almost none of the people who surrounded Trump since the 2016 campaign had any political motivation. It’s all about money. That’s all it’s been about this whole time. Rudy, Manafort, Gates, Stone, Bannon, all of them. It’s the only thing motivating any of the Trump’s and their spouses/girlfriends. Money.

    Lock them up!

    • BobCon says:

      Ideology is huge for these people.

      Manafort, for example, could have made a lot more money if he had repped major countries instead of horrible third world ductators, and there was a time when he could have built his business in that direction and made serious money like Arnold and Porter.

      He chose to stick with dictators like Seko instead.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        I would not be confident that we know what Manafort’s true income – in cash and in kind – has been over the decades he worked for some of the world’s dirtiest and most corrupt actors. His federal tax returns and business accounts almost certainly understate his income. Not least, his financial statements would leave out a litany of exchanged favors.

  13. x174 says:

    given what we know about ghoulianai’s associates, such as Telizhenko, Firtash, Derkach, Parnas, Fuhrman, Kolomoisky, etc (see url), i would double check before assuming that there were no russian actors/assets involved in our homegrown coup before I discounted it. the conception behind the oafish expression of moronic mass violence seemed foreign to me–which might help explain why it was so foolish, ignorant and ineffective. (
    recall: just before trump paraded around with his sec def, pentagon chief, and atty general for his “photo shoot” at lafayette square on the 1st of june 2020–merely five months earlier, he had spoken last with putin hours before unleashing his moronic and violent idiocy:
    “Undeterred, Trump called Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday morning to formally propose the plan, hours before he announced that he was ordering the U.S. military to Washington to defend his White House from American protesters.” (

  14. AndTheSlithyToves says:

    Posting this just in case you haven’t seen it yet. JHC.

    Yashar Ali Elephant @yashar
    Liebengood’s father, also Howard Liebengood, died in 2005.

    He was the Senate Sargeant at Arms in the early 1980s and then became a powerful lobbyist and an associate of Paul Manafort’s.
    Quote Tweet
    Yashar Ali Elephant @yashar 17h
    Another US Capitol Police Officer has died after the insurrection.
    Officer Howard Liebengood has died by suicide.
    11:58 AM · Jan 10, 2021·Twitter for iPhone

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