I don’t know. If you compare what Chris Wallace said yesterday to what diGenova is saying today, it sounds like the Fox report was true — except for one important detail, if diGenova is to be believed.
Here’s what Wallace said:
“Fox News has learned the president’s private attorney, Rudy Giuliani, was not acting alone in trying to get dirt from Ukrainian officials on 2020 rival Joe Biden. Two high-profile Washington lawyers, Joe diGenova, who’s been a fierce critic of the Democratic investigation, and his wife Victoria Toensing were working with Giuliani to get oppo research on Biden. According to a top U.S. official, all three were working off the books apart from the administration. The only person in government who knows what they were doing is President Trump.”
Pretty straightforward. Rudy wanted oppo from Ukraine on Biden, diGenova was helping, and they were doing it unofficially but with Trump’s knowledge. Now here’s diGenova in an interview this morning with WBAL, calling the report “absolutely false.”
“While [Giuliani] was looking into [evidence in Ukraine that people tried to frame Trump with the Russia collusion story], he came across information about Hunter Biden and Joe Biden that came up concerning the threat to hold back money and that Biden’s son had received bribes. The prosecutor involved in that was the one that Biden had fired.”
“He asked us – Rudy – he asked us to represent any of the Ukrainian whistleblowers who wanted to provide information to U.S. law enforcement about what they had heard and learned,” diGenova said.
“They were fearful to come to U.S. law enforcement because the United States ambassador in the Ukraine at that time had threatened these individuals not to give information because, as she, the ambassador, put it, Trump was going to be impeached and Biden was going to be president.”
“The trip to Ukraine was cancelled,” diGenova said. “No-one ever went there. No-one was ever talked to. We never had an opportunity, our law firm, to represent any whistleblowers. Any conversations we may have had with anybody prior to that time obviously are privileged. We were never representing the President of the United States. Mr Giuliani was. So, that’s the story.”
So Giuliani did solicit diGenova’s help in producing Ukraine dirt on Biden. And diGenova implies that some sort of work was done in the early stages of that project but he can’t discuss it because those chats would be privileged. What about Wallace’s claim that this was all being done with Trump’s knowledge? “Totally false,” diGenova said, “The President was not involved with any of this.” Here’s what Rudy said when he was asked about this today:
On Monday morning, Giuliani told The Daily Beast that “Joe is absolutely right,” and that President Trump “didn’t know about this at this point. I don’t think I’d even briefed him yet [on this specific matter]… They weren’t working on the investigation with me. I did the investigation with my people. This was not a matter that was brought to the president” while the trip was being planned.
Giuliani said that he had planned to bring “Vicki” Toensing with him on the aborted Ukraine trip earlier this year, to offer her services to Ukrainian individuals as independent counsel. When asked if he had told the president about any of this after the trip fell apart, Trump’s personal attorney said “I’m not going to tell you what I told the president” and cited privilege.
So it sounds like Rudy brought diGenova and Toensing in on the effort early, on his own initiative and without Trump’s knowledge — “off the books,” as it were, just as Rudy’s informal outreach to Ukraine was. Some preliminary work was done but then D&T dropped the matter for whatever reason before it reached the stage of them visiting Ukraine. Trump may have been made aware of their involvement after the fact, though; Giuliani is notably coy about whether POTUS was told of diGenova’s and Toensing’s early participation later on. It would also stand to reason that “The only person in government who knows what they were doing is President Trump,” as Wallace claimed. If all of this were being done “off the books” via private attorneys, only Rudy’s client, Donald Trump, would know the extent of their involvement.
In fact, Rudy didn’t need to tell POTUS that diGenova and Toensing were involved in the early stages of the Ukraine outreach. Back in May, when news first broke into public view about Giuliani’s interest in Ukraine, the New York Times reported the couple’s connection to the matter. Quote: “Mr. Giuliani has been working on the effort with other allies of Mr. Trump whose involvement has not been previously reported, including Victoria Toensing, a lawyer who was named last year, along with her husband, as part of the legal team representing the president in the special counsel’s investigation. The appointment was rescinded less than one week later amid concerns about conflicts of interest, but Mr. Trump’s legal team suggested that Ms. Toensing and her husband, Joseph E. diGenova, would assist the president ‘in other legal matters.’”
All of this jibes with what Wallace reported. Where Wallace went wrong — again, if diGenova is to be believed — was in not making clear that diGenova’s and Toensing’s work on the Ukraine matter allegedly ended early, without the two visiting Ukraine or representing any Ukrainian whistleblowers. DiGenova claims that Fox was informed of that but declined to mention it, which amounted to overselling the two’s involvement. All Wallace will say (for now) is that Fox stands by its story. Hmmm.
Even if you take the most diGenova-friendly view of all this, though, it remains a mystery why he was offered to Tucker Carlson’s audience last week as a disinterested legal expert countering Andrew Napolitano’s opinion of whether Trump’s actions were criminal. By his own admission, he was asked by the president’s personal lawyer to represent Ukrainians who might have information on Biden. DiGenova never claims that he turned Rudy down either; to the contrary, the Times story from May says Toensing was working with him, at least for a time. Why was the conflict of interest not mentioned to Fox viewers? That was the whole reason Fox’s news division broke this scoop, I assume — to expose diGenova’s former work for Giuliani on this matter while he plays dispassionate pundit about it on primetime. Maybe that’s why Wallace stands by the story.