Rudy Giuliani is said to have privately implored President Trump in 2017 to extradite an opponent of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan from the United States.
Former U.S. officials told the Washington Post that Giuliani, who last year became Trump’s personal attorney, repeatedly pressed the president to remove Fethullah Gülen, who lives in exile in Pennsylvania. Erdoğan wants Gülen to stand trial on charges of putting together a failed coup in 2016, but Gülen denies being involved.
Although senior administration officials confronted Giuliani over concerns he may have been paid to represent Turkey’s interests, the former New York City mayor says he has never represented Turkey and does not need to register as a foreign lobbyist. In a text message, Giuliani said he “can’t comment” on the report as it “would be complete attorney client privilege but sounds wacky.” Pressed to respond to the multiple people who described his conversation with Trump, Giuliani said “Bull” and gave the question a “thumbs up” emoji.
The client Giuliani claims to have been representing was Reza Zarrab, a Turkish-Iranian who pleaded guilty to taking part in a scheme to help Iran dodge U.S. sanctions and got 32 months in prison in May 2018. Erdoğan asked Trump in 2017 to release Zarrab, and a report last week said the president urged then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that same year to help persuade the Justice Department to drop the case. Tillerson refused.
Giualini’s attempts to sway Trump on Gülen bears resemblance to an effort by former national security adviser Michael Flynn, which Gülen’s attorney brought up in a statement.
“We have argued aggressively and I thought persuasively to both the Obama and Trump Justice Departments that the allegations against Gülen are false and that any effort to extradite him would fail legally and factually and would be an embarrassment to the United States,” Reid Weingarten said. “After Gen. Flynn’s efforts on behalf of Turkey on this subject were exposed it is hard to believe Giuliani would follow suit.”
It’s unclear how much sway Giuliani’s overtures had on Trump, but Trump is said to have been receptive to the idea of extraditing Gülen. The White House even asked federal law enforcement agencies to explore legal options.
The report comes on the heels of Trump ordering a pullout of U.S. troops from northern Syria, which was was quickly followed by Turkey launching a military offensive against Syrian Kurdish militias who helped in the fight against the Islamic State. The president announced on Monday the U.S. would increase sanctions of steel imports from Turkey and order sanctions against officials “contributing to Turkey’s destabilizing actions in northeast Syria.” Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are headed to Turkey as part of an effort to broker a cease-fire in Syria.
Giuliani’s discussions with Ukrainian leaders regarding 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter have become key details in the House’s impeachment inquiry, and he faces congressional subpoenas and the arrests of two of his colleagues who had been assisting him in his investigation into the younger Biden. The former New York City mayor said on Tuesday he “will not participate in an illegitimate, unconstitutional, and baseless ‘impeachment inquiry.’”