U.S. President Donald Trump took to Twitter on October 12 to defend his personal lawyer, Rudolf Giuliani, after reports said Giuliani was under federal investigation over actions relating to Ukraine that he says he took on Trump's behalf.
The New York Times has reported that federal investigators in New York are looking into whether Giuliani broke lobbying laws in his Ukraine dealings, which reportedly included seeking potentially damaging information on former vice president and current Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden and encouraging the ouster of the U.S. ambassador to Kyiv.
"So now they are after the legendary 'crime buster' and greatest Mayor in the history of NYC, Rudy Giuliani," Trump tweeted. "He may seem a little rough around the edges sometimes, but he is also a great guy and wonderful lawyer."
He went on to call the investigations "such a one sided Witch Hunt going on in USA," cited "deep state," and said it was "shameful."
The New York case also involves two of Giuliani's business associates who were taken into custody this week as they tried to fly out of the country, Ukraine-born Lev Parnas and Belarus-born Igor Fruman, both naturalized U.S. citizens.
Asked about the New York Times report, Giuliani told Reuters: "I never did any lobbying for anyone. If they want to ask me I’m happy to prove it. But they haven’t."
Giuliani has acknowledged that he and associates were working with Ukrainian prosecutors to get information on Biden, his son Hunter, who was being paid by a Ukrainian energy company, and the now-former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch.
Yovanovitch, who is still a State Department employee, testified behind closed doors on October 11 to the House of Representatives impeachment inquiry against Trump that the president recalled her based on "unfounded and false claims" after Giuliani had targeted her.
U.S. lobbying laws make it a crime to fail to report to the Justice Department representation of foreign politicians or governments, paid or unpaid, in contacts with the U.S. government.
Giuliani has previously said he did nothing improper, and has said such allegations have no grounds because he was acting on behalf of Trump.
Democratic lawmakers began work on the impeachment inquiry after the White House released a detailed summary of a July telephone call between Trump and recently inaugurated Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
In it, the U.S. president asks Zelenskiy to "do us a favor" by looking into a company that investigated election-related hacking before the 2016 U.S. election.
Trump then appears to ask Ukrainians to work with "the attorney general" in connection with "look[ing] into" actions by Biden and his son, according to the summary.