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Rudy Giuliani's TV Appearances May Be Fueling Impeachment Scrutiny


President Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, has gone on TV a lot in the past few days to defend the president and in particular to defend the president's phone call to Ukraine's president. Here's Giuliani on Fox News last night. He's talking to Sean Hannity.


RUDY GIULIANI: Joe Biden was sent to Ukraine to, in part, deal with corruption, and he helped to corrupt the Ukraine. He is a laughing stock. We are.

KING: OK. To be clear, Giuliani's claim that Biden helped corrupt Ukraine, there is no evidence for that. But it seems like instead of helping the president, it's possible that these TV interviews that Giuliani's doing are drawing even more questions.

NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik is on the line. Good morning, David.


KING: So Giuliani has been on TV banging this drum in defense of the president a lot. Was there anything new in what he said on Hannity's show last night?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, you know, in some ways, he went to "Hannity" 'cause it was the warm embraces of one of the president's closest advisers on the president's favorite TV channel. The key thing in some ways, as Hannity advertised, was that it was an exclusive. The president's personal lawyer, Giuliani, as well as being a supportive voice is also in the middle of this question of what the president's behavior has been towards Ukraine, himself going to see if he could get dirt, essentially, that would reflect negatively on Joe Biden and his son.

And Giuliani has been subpoenaed by three investigative committees of Congress right now, so this was projected as an exclusive. And basically, Giuliani said he may comply with the subpoena. He may cooperate with the investigations. He may, provided - as long as he's able to use what he described as videotapes, audiotapes, other materials that he's gathered in order to present the information that he thinks is most vital.

KING: In the subpoena from congressional Democrats, they actually said to Giuliani - we are doing this in part because of an interview that you did on CNN a few weeks ago with Chris Cuomo. Is Giuliani just getting himself in trouble when he appears on these TV shows?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, it certainly tells you that this has repercussions. You know, this is a tactic, I think, that's being mistaken by the White House as a strategy to be on there. But, you know, right now, Giuliani has to decide if he's going to comply with this. There are serious repercussions if you don't comply with a congressional subpoena. But, you know, what they've been doing is going to safe places and had friendly interviews where they turned the subject each time to what the Bidens have done in Ukraine as opposed to what the president is reported to have done there - not only in Ukraine and now but perhaps with other world leaders, as well.

But they also have been going on other news organizations, like CNN, to show the president's base, to show the president's supporters, to show the president himself they're going to take the fight to the rest of the media - make not only the question of what the whistleblower has done, what the president's critics are saying, what people on Capitol Hill are doing but the media's behavior in reporting on what the president has done in an effort to discredit those kinds of accusations.

KING: Well, to that end, there was a really interesting development over the weekend. Joe Biden called on news shows to stop interviewing Giuliani. He - Biden basically said, this man is spreading false allegations; you shouldn't talk to him. How have media organizations responded to that?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, I think, quite understandably, journalists don't want to be told by current or former officeholders who they can and cannot interview. That smacks of a certain kind of preemptive censorship of a kind.

And at the same time, that debate is going on within journalism. That is, when you have people who are deeply misleading, as Giuliani is said to be being right now about what's known in the Ukraine, the question is - how do you have them on? When you have live interviews, are they going to go off the rail?

And with Giuliani, the additional wrinkle is he is a player in all this. He's a legitimate person being interviewed. He may have answers that are useful, constructive or illuminating. He may just not be willing to give them.

KING: Yeah.

FOLKENFLIK: How do journalists handle that? And so the real thing is is that it's baked into the mix. You've got friendly forums like Fox. But you also other ones, like CNN, where conflict is baked into part of the formula over there.

KING: NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik. David, thanks so much.

FOLKENFLIK: You bet. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Folkenflik was described by Geraldo Rivera of Fox News as "a really weak-kneed, backstabbing, sweaty-palmed reporter." Others have been kinder. The Columbia Journalism Review, for example, once gave him a "laurel" for reporting that immediately led the U.S. military to institute safety measures for journalists in Baghdad.