One of the key takeaways from the Ukraine scandal has been that Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer and not a government employee, was running a rogue foreign policy operation meant to benefit Donald Trump’s political interests.
Giuliani was the key player pushing for the ouster of Marie Yovanovitch, then the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, who was seen as an impediment to his goals in that country ― which were primarily to get Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. And in the infamous July 25 call, Trump told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that he should talk to Giuliani to move forward on an investigation of the Bidens.
But very little is known about Trump and Giuliani’s own conversations ― when they spoke, how often they spoke and what they said. That’s because, according to officials who spoke to The Washington Post, Giuliani often called Trump on the president’s personal cellphone.
Trump ― the man who was obsessed with the fact that Hillary Clinton used a private email server as secretary of state ― continues to use a personal cellphone, despite warnings from security experts. The practice also, conveniently, allows him to avoid extra public scrutiny.
Trump’s cellphone does not have security features to shield his communications from espionage, and he has reportedly resisted measures to make his phone more secure.
As president, Barack Obama also had a personal cellphone, but it had significantly more restrictions. Security officials examined his phone every 30 days for evidence of hacking, and it had no microphone or camera. He couldn’t make calls, and he could receive email only from a small group of staffers and friends who were given a special address. There was also no texting.
Asked for comment about Trump’s use of a personal cellphone to talk with Giuliani, White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said, “Just because you saw something reported somewhere doesn’t mean it’s true.” But she didn’t reply to a follow-up inquiry on whether she was denying the report.
The U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan is investigating Giuliani, as is the criminal division of the Justice Department. As those probes heat up, there’s a chance that they could bring out his phone records.
While Giuliani is Trump’s personal lawyer, he was also acting in a way that seemed to go far beyond the scope of an individual attorney. There is something called the “crime-fraud exception” to attorney-client privilege, meaning the client can’t use the attorney to commit a crime. The government can review an attorney’s records in such an instance.
As secretary of state, Clinton set up a private email address instead of using a government account. She said she did it because it was more convenient, allowing her to use one electronic device, rather than two, for work and personal matters. Her team then turned over all official correspondence so that it could be part of the official record.
Another central issue in the Ukraine investigation is the fact that White House staff moved the transcript of the July 25 call to a separate system meant to store national security secrets ― even though the call addressed no national security secrets ― because they didn’t want the politically embarrassing and damaging information about Trump’s maneuvers to get out.
In conclusion, the man who made Clinton’s email server a major issue in 2016 is now potentially using a personal cellphone to talk about foreign policy with a private citizen running a shadow operation and is keeping his politically damaging conversations on a secret server.