Rudy Giuliani, the personal lawyer to Donald Trump who is under intense scrutiny over his role in the Ukrainegate scandal, has refused to comply with a subpoena from the congressional committees investigating the US president.
In a letter to the House of Representatives intelligence committee, Jon Sale, a lawyer representing Mr Giuliani, said his client would not provide documents related to what he described as an “unconstitutional” impeachment inquiry.
“Mr Giuliani will not participate because this appears to be an unconstitutional, baseless and illegitimate ‘impeachment inquiry’,” Mr Sale wrote in the letter, which was obtained by the Financial Times. “Moreover, documents sought in the subpoena are protected by attorney-client, attorney work product and executive privilege.”
Mr Giuliani, 75, has emerged as a key figure in the Ukraine scandal. The former New York mayor and former federal prosecutor was instrumental in Mr Trump’s effort to pressure Ukraine into finding dirt on former vice-president Joe Biden and his son, and also helped to orchestrate a campaign to remove Marie Yovanovitch from her role as US ambassador to Ukraine.
The move to defy the panels leading the impeachment inquiry — the House intelligence, oversight and foreign affairs committees — comes amid reports that federal prosecutors in Manhattan are investigating whether Mr Giuliani broke lobbying-related laws in his Ukraine-related work. He has denied any wrongdoing.
Mr Giuliani came under more scrutiny last week after two of his associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, were charged with violating campaign finance laws. The men were also involved in efforts to investigate Mr Biden and his son’s Ukrainian business activities.
Fiona Hill, a former top White House Russia aide who resigned over the summer, on Monday told the House committees that she and John Bolton, the former US national security adviser, were concerned about efforts by Mr Giuliani to pressure Ukraine into investigating the Democrats.
US media cited Ms Hill as telling the committees that Mr Bolton referred to Mr Giuliani as a “hand grenade who’s going to blow everybody up”.
Mr Trump last week distanced himself from Mr Giuliani, saying “I don’t know” when asked if the former New York mayor was still his personal lawyer. But on Saturday he lavished praise on Mr Giuliani, saying he was a “legendary crime buster” and the best New York mayor in history.
“He may seem a little rough around the edges sometimes, but he is also a great guy and wonderful lawyer,” Mr Trump tweeted.
Follow Demetri Sevastopulo on Twitter: @dimi