Back in January or February 1988, I was due at a meeting in Washington, D.C. So, I flew down from LaGuardia on the shuttle that morning, rented a car and was driving up Wisconsin Avenue and somewhere in Georgetown stopped for a red light.
It was a cold and rainy day, and as I sat at the light, an elderly man dressed in a raincoat and hat came walking past my car holding a quart of milk in one hand and the leash of some little mutt in the other.
The guy wasn’t walking so much as he was shuffling. His head was down but as he passed in front of my car, he briefly looked at me.
“Holy shit” I exclaimed to myself, “that’s John Mitchell!” Which is exactly who it was.
From January 1969 until March 1972, Mitchell was Attorney General and arguably the second most powerful public figure in the United States. He resigned his office during Nixon’s second campaign, then got caught up in the Watergate mess, was eventually convicted in 1977 and spent 18 months in jail.
When he got out of the slammer, Mitchell was completely broke, divorced and alone, and maybe would have ended up on a bench in Rock Creek Park if some little, old lady in Georgetown hadn’t taken him in. In exchange for room and board, Mitchell walked the doggie twice a day and stopped off at the corner deli to buy a quart of milk. In November of that same year, Mitchell dropped dead of a heart attack on the street in front of his landlady’s home.
Maybe Rudy Giuliani was never as powerful as Mitchell, but from a publicity point of view he had certainly earned his spurs. His 1986 conviction of the heads of the Mafia ‘five families’ won him the admiration of prosecutors nationwide, and while he often made too much out of too little when it came to Wall Street scams and scammers, he also put both Mike Milken and Ivan Boesky behind bars.
After an initial failed attempt to run for Mayor, he was elected the Big Apple’s big dog in 1993, serving in that office until 2001. His tenure ended just after the Trade Towers attack in which he seemed to be all over the place at every moment of those first, horrific days, and he then became something of a private, roving ambassador going around to other cities and countries advising on how to respond to terrorist attacks.
Giuliani spent most of the next two decades flitting around on the edges of Republican politics, chasing women, and being chased in turn, earning some nice bucks by spieling at this dinner and that political or business event, and basically keeping himself in close contact with a friend he first made when he was Mayor – a guy named Donald Trump.
When Trump started putting an Administration together after the 2016 campaign, Giuliani’s name was floated for various Cabinet spots, including heading up the State Department, but he didn’t make the grade.
On the other hand, his son Andrew was given a no-show job on the White House staff where he allegedly arranged the visits of various sport teams so that Trump could pose with the winners of important sporting championships and events. The kid was paid over $90,000 a year and when he ran in the 2022 Republican primary for New York Governor (losing to Lee Zeldin by 20 points,) he cited his White House ‘work’ as the political experience which prepared him for the state’s highest executive post.
Meanwhile, Rudy hooked onto Trump’s White House coattails and began referring to himself as the President’s ‘personal’ attorney, who wasn’t given a salary but used his access to Trump to feather his own nest. The nesting activity included doing some kind of legal work for two Ukrainian shysters, Lev Parnas, and Igor Fruman, both of whom ended up doing time for secretly donating money to the Trump campaign. These two guys were also somehow connected to Giuliani’s crazy scheme to make a documentary movie about Joe and Hunter Biden’s alleged financial scams in Ukraine.
Rudy’s thirst for money and his willingness to do and say anything which might get him facetime with Trump resulted in what has to be described as the biggest, single, bizarre public spectacle in United States political history of all time. I am referring, of course, to the press conference held in front of a landscaping business and across the street from a porno shop in Philadelphia when Rudy kicked off Trump’s second 2020 Presidential campaign, which was the idea that the election of Joe was based on ‘fraud.’
Trump had been pissing and moaning about mail ballots and early voting, which became commonplace in many jurisdictions as a reaction to Covid-19. But it was Giuliani who wrapped up all of the alleged electoral misdoings not only to explain how and why Trump lost the re-election, but to charge the existence of a massive, national conspiracy to deprive America of four more Trump years.
For Trump, who was fixated on conspiracy theories, this was the greatest conspiracy theory of them all. But for Rudy, it was nothing more than a reprise of an election ‘fraud’ story which he invented to explain why he lost his run for Mayor in 1989. Rudy lost that contest by slightly less than 50,000 votes, but in multiple interviews he knew ‘for a fact’ that inner-city residents (read: African-Americans) were paid to vote ‘eight or ten times.’
I don’t know how many attempts Rudy made on behalf of the Trump campaign to get a judge, some judge, any judge, to rule that the 2020 election needed to be redone. I do know that Giuliani personally testified in Arizona, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, and none of these challenges went anywhere, along with more than 50 other legal challenges that were dismissed.
None of these negative legal outcomes prevented Giuliani from making statements about alleged electoral irregularities which in some instances can only be described as products coming from a deranged mind. On his daily radio show, Rudy stated that 65,000 underage voters came to the polls in Georgia, a number he later increased to 165,000 underage voters. On November 30, he appeared at a press conference at the Hyatt Regency in Phoenix and said that 32,000 ‘illegal aliens’ voted in Arizona, a number he later increased to “a few hundred thousand” illegal votes.
If you want to see how far Rudy moved away from the rigorous and forceful manner in which he prosecuted the heads of organized crime families or Wall Street thieves, read through the opinion issued by New York’s Court of Appeals when a judicial panel suspended his New York law license in 2021 for what was referred to as “espousing false factual information to large segments of the public as a means of discrediting the rights of legitimate voters.”
Adding insult to injury, the D.C. Bar has just said it intends to issue an order disbarring Rudy from practicing law in that jurisdiction as well. The order from a disciplinary panel was provoked by what is referred to as a violation of professional conduct rules stemming from his efforts “to undermine the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election.”
It should be noted that Giuliani happens to be the third attorney who provided legal services to Trump and was disbarred for conduct which either violated professional behavior guidelines, or was convicted of a felony, or both. I am referring here not only to Rudy, but to Michael Cohen and previously to Roy Cohn. Only Giuliani was sanctioned for work undertaken on behalf of Trump, but it’s still a unique footnote to Trump’s career that he hired three attorneys who all lost their licenses to practice law.
If this were two years ago, you wouldn’t have seen Giuliani standing alone on a streetcorner wearing a pair of sneakers and trying to turn on his phone. He would have been surrounded by a team of handlers and assistants, and someone would have been helping him get into the back seat of a limousine.
That was then, this is now. And now we have Giuliani standing by himself in the middle of Manhattan looking exactly like what he is – an old man, probably broke, and certainly a far cry from the man he once was.
As they say among our friends, “Every dog has his day.”