Working With ‘Private Interests’, Giuliani Sought To Engineer Coup In Venezuela
The president’s personal attorney has come under scrutiny over his back-channel foreign policy efforts in Ukraine, but Ukraine is not the only country in which Rudy Giuliani participated in U.S. foreign policy behind the scenes, according to The Washington Post.
In late 2018, Giuliani joined then-Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) in a phone call with Venezuela’s socialist president as “part of a shadow diplomatic effort, backed in part by private interests, aimed at engineering a negotiated exit to ease President Nicolás Maduro from power and reopen resource-rich Venezuela to business, according to people familiar with the endeavor.”
The Post reported that Giuliani’s moves to insert himself into foreign diplomacy alarmed and confused administration officials, who were not clear on just whose interests the president’s attorney was representing.
One senior administration official told the newspaper that after the White House became aware of Giuliani’s participation in the call with Maduro, no one could ascertain why the attorney was involved.
And The Post noted that “Giuliani’s willingness to talk with Maduro in late 2018 flew in the face of the official policy of the White House, which, under national security adviser John Bolton, was then ratcheting up sanctions and taking a harder line against the Venezuelan government.”
Giuliani reportedly spoke with Bolton around the time of his phone call with Maduro to discuss an “off-the-books” plan to ease the embattled Venezuelan president from office, but Bolton was adamantly opposed to the plan.
According to Sessions, his efforts to work out a deal with Maduro resulted in obtaining numerous concessions, which the lawmaker insisted would help facilitate a peaceful transfer of power — including Maduro's "departure from power and a commitment to allow free and fair elections in exchange for leniency from the United States" — but U.S. officials worried the deal "was intended to legitimize the upcoming election by opening up the vote to at least some opposition candidates, which could help Maduro remain in power, rather than ease him from office."
By January 2019, the Trump administration officially recognized Maduro’s rival Juan Guaidó as president of Venezuela. Giuliani would go on to pick up a client from the country, The Post reported: “a Venezuelan tycoon under investigation by the Justice Department for possible money-laundering.”
When news broke that Giuliani was representing wealthy Venezuelan energy executive Alejandro Betancourt López, arguing before the Trump administration that the Justice Department should not charge his client, while also serving as the president’s personal attorney, veteran U.S. officials with experience in Venezuela were deeply disturbed.
“You have to ask, ‘Why is he doing this?’ ” one former senior administration official told The Post.