In a sudden twist, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani announced he was no longer serving on President Donald Trump’s impeachment team — just as Republican strategists warned his participation in the US Senate trials may lead to a conviction.
The president’s longtime confidant and personal lawyer spent the weekend telling news media outlets he was “involved” and “working on” the upcoming impeachment trials.
He even went so far as to tell ABC News he “wouldn’t be as strongly opposed” to Mr Trump testifying during the trials as he was during the president’s first impeachment in 2019.
But by Sunday night, his apparent involvement in the president’s legal team seemed to change.
Rudy Giuliani now says he won’t on the Trump impeachment defense team. “Because I gave an earlier speech [at the January 6 Trump rally], I am a witness and therefore unable to participate in court or Senate chamber,” he tells me.
— Jonathan Karl (@jonkarl) January 18, 2021
Mr Giuliani told ABC News’ Jonathan Karl he was “unable to participate” in the Senate trials or potential court proceedings due to a speech he delivered on 6 January at the pro-Trump rally in Washington.
The rally spurred a deadly mob attack on the US Capitol building which left at least five people dead, including one police officer, and resulted in the president’s second impeachment in the US House of Representatives, as lawmakers on both sides of the aisle charged Mr Trump with inciting an attempted insurrection.
The lawyer reportedly said in a statement: “Because I gave an earlier speech [at the January 6 Trump rally], I am a witness and therefore unable to participate in court or Senate chamber.”
Mr Giuliani’s statement comes after he was seen visiting the White House earlier on Sunday afternoon amid reports of growing tensions between he and the president over a hefty invoice he billed to Mr Trump for his legal defence in the wake of the 2020 elections.
The former mayor has spent recent months travelling across the country and promoting false conspiracy theories of rampant voter fraud, while reportedly billing Mr Trump $20,000 a day — a figure he has denied charging the president. Mr Trump has refused to pay the tab, according to reports.
Just as Mr Giuliani was confirming to ABC News that he would be involved in the impeachment trial, Karl Rove, a longtime Republican strategist, was on Fox News Sunday warning the president could be convicted if his personal attorney joined his defence.
“If it’s the Rudy Giuliani defense, there’s a strong likelihood that more than 17 Republicans will [vote to convict Mr Trump], because essentially that argument is: ‘This was justified, the attack on the Capitol and the attempt to end the congressional hearing on certifying the election was justified because all these charges are true,” GOP strategist Karl Rove told the network’s Chris Wallace. “And frankly, they aren’t.”
Meanwhile, it remains unclear when Mr Trump’s Senate impeachment trial will take place. After the House voted to impeach the president a second time earlier this month, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reportedly expressed his support for the Democratic-led efforts — then declined to call a special session of the Senate to conduct a trial. Some Democrats have called for the Senate to schedule the trial after President-elect Joe Biden has been sworn in later this week.
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