Appearing Sunday on Meet the Press, Rudy Giuliani laughed his way through a series of questions about his business connections to shady figures.
Why did his law firm, Bracewell & Giuliani, lobby for years on behalf of an oil company controlled by the Venezuelan president, Hugo Chávez, moderator Tim Russert wanted to know?
"That's, that's a stretch," said the former New York City mayor.
And what about the ties to Las Vegas developer and a controversial Hong Kong billionaire both of whom are connected to North Korea's Kim Jong Il?
"You're not serious, right," retorted Giuliani, coming up for air between hearty laughs.
If the Republican frontrunner seemed prepared for the peppering its because he's had to answer questions like these before. Twelve years ago, when Giuliani first ran against then-New York City Mayor David Dinkins, similar criticism arose concerning his legal work.
Back then Giuliani was a million-dollar attorney for White & Case coming off a highly successful stint at the U.S. attorney's office. The firm was a registered agent for the government of Panama and, as such, had direct links to the country's dictator Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega, who was under indictment in the U.S. on drug smuggling charges.
But according to Giuliani critics, Noriega is not the only skeleton in the former mayor's closet. As Wayne Barrett wrote in his book Grand Illusion: The Untold Story of Rudy Giuliani and 9/11:
The law firms [Giuliani] would up working at did business with multiple institutions that had ties to terrorist activities. The firm he joined in 1989 - White & Case - became a campaign issue in part because of its representation of the Saudi-based Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) a veritable life force for drug cartels, despots like Saddam Hussein, and even the most notorious terrorist of the time, Abu Nidal... Giuliani personally represented the Milan-based Montedison, which was accused in Italian press reports of providing "chemicals and expertise" to a poison-gas plant in Libya.
And after Giuliani lost his bid for mayor, he went on to a second firm, Anderson, Kill, Olick & Oshinsky, which, Barrett notes, "represented 11 companies, mostly European, accused of selling components of chemical weapons or other arms to Saddam Hussein." Giuliani directly represented one himself.
When confronted with these issues in 1989, Giuliani acted swiftly, leaving White & Case months earlier than he had originally planned. In regards to his current run at the White House, Giuliani is still a participating partner with his firm. And while he recently stepped down from an executive role, Giulaini still has financial ties his security outlet, Giuliani Partners, which has extensive contracts with the Qatar government and its controversial interior minister Abdallah bin Khalid al-Thani, who is believed to have helped Khalid Sheikh Mohammad escape the FBI when they attempted to arrest him in 1996.
Would Giuliani be willing to sever that tie, Russert wanted to know? "Well, I'm an owner," Rudy responded, suggesting he would not.
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