His rise to prominence as he stewarded New York through the aftermath of 9/11 earned Rudy Giuliani the label of “America’s mayor”, praised for his leadership and magnanimity in a time of national crisis.
His fall from grace as Donald Trump’s lawyer, punctuated this week with a truly bizarre meltdown, has been equally spectacular.
“I’ve tried 100 cases. I know crimes, I can smell ’em,” Giuliani claimed in a press conference on Thursday about Trump’s increasingly unhinged legal fight to overturn the election results.
The heat of the lights at the Republican National Committee hall sent what appeared to be hair dye trickling down his temples.
“You don’t have to smell this one, I can prove it to you 18 different ways,” he said, with the patter of a snake oil salesman.
A longtime friend and personal lawyer of Trump, Giuliani returned to federal court this week for the first time in nearly 30 years after three separate law firms hired by the President withdrew.
With the window of opportunity to overturn the results narrowing by the day, Trump appears to have pinned all his hopes on Washington’s most craven muckraker.
Most of Trump’s legal team have distanced themselves from what they see as the pair’s disturbingly “undemocratic” attempt to keep the President in power.
Some senior Republicans who humoured the President at first are beginning to lose patience. Even Trump’s daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared have reportedly cautioned him against putting too much stock in Giuliani’s seemingly dead-end lawsuits.
Perhaps some of it is the money – Giuliani is reported to have asked his boss for as much as $20,000 (NZ$28,000) a day to represent him in court – that has bought his loyalty. But he has defended his client with a vigour that suggests there might be more to it. Giuliani has denied requesting that much.
Standing alongside Giuliani at Thursday’s bizarre press conference were attorneys Sidney Powell and Jenna Ellis, who alleged a outlandish scheme that saw philanthropist George Soros, President-elect Joe Biden, the Clinton Foundation and anti-fascist group Antifa work together with the Venezuelan government to rig the election in favour of the Democrats.
There has proved to be little meat on the bones of the Giuliani team’s allegations.
Some of the claims were so wild that one of Trump’s favourite Fox News hosts, Geraldo Rivera, quipped in a post-conference TV debate: “What about Elvis?”
Chris Krebs, who was the US’s top election security official until he was unceremoniously fired by Trump on Tuesday, described the press conference as “the most dangerous 1hr 45 minutes of television in American history”.
New Yorkers have struggled to reconcile the Rudy Giuliani they see unravelling before them – the one caught with his pants down in a Manhattan hotel room with an actress pretending to be a Russian journalist after falling for a Borat prank – with the man they once knew.
They remember an attorney general who went after the mafia and brought down some of the biggest mob bosses in the city, putting an end to a period of unprecedented violence. A Giuliani who was gracious in defeat following his failed 1989 mayoral bid, calling on New Yorkers to pray for David Dinkins, the Democrat who beat him, and to unite behind him.
They recall the leadership he showed after the 9/11 attacks more than a decade later thatearned him the “America’s mayor” nickname.
The press conference capped a fortnight of barely believable appearances from Giuliani.
On the day the election was called for President-elect Biden, the Brooklyn-born lawyer was lampooned for holding a news briefing at Four Seasons Total Landscaping in Philadelphia -situated between a crematorium and an adult bookstore – after Trump mistakenly suggested it would be at a Four Seasons hotel.
He addressed gathered media at a lectern in the middle of a car park in the city’s industrial outskirts, where he struggled to be heard over a man in his underwear shouting about Soros and Hunter Biden’s laptop.
Giuliani was himself responsible for bringing the world’s attention to the contents of the youngest Biden son’s computer, which he tried to falsely claim linked him and his father to corruption in Ukraine.
The former mayor is alleged to have spent time with unsavoury characters in Ukraine trying to unearth dirt that would help his client in the White House, an effort at the heart of Trump’s impeachment.
When he was told the news that Biden’s win had been called by the networks. “All the networks, ALL THE NETWORKS!,” he shouted as he raised his arms to the heavens. “The networks don’t get to decide elections,” he chided.
Some dismiss Giuliani’s performances as mere theatrics, but critics believe they are working to erode Americans’ confidence in their democratic system.
Recent surveys show that only 30 per cent believe there has been a free and fair election, down from 60 per cent before November 3. Thirty-eight percent of Republicans still think the results will be overturned.
Trump supporters outside the Philadelphia conference spoke of an attempted coup against the President. They believed the Democrats had stolen the election by flipping mail-in ballots cast for the President while poll watchers were not looking.
“Trump will not overturn the election result,” said Michael McFaul, former US ambassador to Russia and director of Stanford University’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies. “But he and his silent GOP enablers are doing real damage to our democracy and fuelling deeper polarisation in American society by trying.”
As days turn into weeks, the signposts Team Trump flagged as moments that would deliver them a victory have come and gone.
Giuliani and the Trump campaign have launched dozens of lawsuits in the key states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Nevada and Georgia, in a strategy described by election law experts as “throwing mud at the wall and hoping some of it will stick”.
They now stand at one post-election win to 31 losses, with a small number still to be heard.
Judge after judge has told them there is no evidence of widespread voting irregularities and that the lawsuits are becoming vexatious.
Georgia recounted its votes, which maintained Biden’s razor-thin lead of 14,000, and certified the result on Friday. Pennsylvania has until Monday to certify theirs.
Trump’s last throw of the dice has been to seek to take the power of appointing electors away from the governors and secretaries of state and give it to friendly state lawmakers from his party, saying the US Constitution gives legislatures the ultimate authority.
He summoned Michigan’s Republican legislative leaders to the White House for an extraordinary meeting on Friday.
In another gift to satirists everywhere, Giuliani was unable to attend after coming in contact with his son, White House staffer Andrew, who on Thursday tested positive for Covid-19.
Rudy Giuliani's fall from grace
Assumes the role of associate attorney general, the third-highest position in the US Department of Justice, 13 years after graduating law school.
Indites 11 organised crime figures in the Mafia Commission Trial, including the heads of New York’s “Five Families”. Time magazine call the trial “the most significant assault on the infrastructure of organised crime” since 1943.
Becomes the first Republican mayor of New York in 20 years. During his tenure he is widely credited for quashing the city’s soaring crime rate.
Giuliani is revered nationwide for his response to the September 11 attacks, becoming a voice of reassurance and hailed for his leadership. Time magazine name him as its Person of the Year for leaving New York “safer, more prosperous, more confident”.
Receives an honorary knighthood (KBE) from the Queen for his leadership on and after the September 11 attacks.
Runs in the presidential election before dropping out and endorsing John McCain.
President-elect Donald Trump names Giuliani as a White House adviser.
Giuliani is faced with controversy after claiming Joe Biden was involved in irregular activity in Ukraine while in office. The New York Times later alleges he urged Ukraine to investigate both Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. Leading Democrats accuse Giuliani of acting “outside legitimate law enforcement and diplomatic channels” to sabotage Biden’s campaign.
Amid Donald Trump’s refusal to concede the election, Giuliani is put in charge of his legal challenges – despite not having argued a case in a courtroom for more than three decades. In his first day in court he struggles with the rudimentary processes of law and representation.
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