Despite the brevity of his trip, Bolsonaro did make time to meet with someone who occupies a special position within President Donald Trump’s inner circle — Rudy Giuliani.
While Giuliani has long dealt with foreign governments through the self-titled consulting firm he founded in 2002 after serving as New York’s mayor, his more recent status as an attorney for the President has enabled him to interact with foreign leaders outside of official diplomatic channels while being treated like a US emissary.
Two current and two former State Department staffers told CNN that Giuliani’s communication with foreign leaders has complicated, and at times undercut, official US foreign policy.
A current State Department staffer who spoke to CNN said US officials track some of Giuliani’s comments because they carry the risk of confusing foreign entities and complicating messaging.
“When someone with that level of profile speaks on highly sensitive issues in a way that doesn’t align with US policy, that is noted with concern,” said the staffer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue.
Andrew Miller, a former official who worked in the State Department during the Bush and Obama administrations and served on the National Security Council during the Obama era said, “There are those in the State Department and the professional U.S. national security apparatus who view Giuliani as a shadow secretary of state.”
In most of Giuliani’s foreign interactions, he has pursued private business interests, but his association with Trump is often highlighted by state-run media and groups he meets with.
During a business trip to Bahrain in December 2018 in which Giuliani had a rare meeting with the country’s leader, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, the state-run Bahrain News Agency described Giuliani as a “high-level US delegation.”
Giuliani’s 2018 trip was arranged by the lobbying firm Sonoran Policy Group, which was paid by the Bahraini government to “facilitate meetings and interactions with U.S. administration officials,” according to foreign lobbying. As a private attorney, Giuliani is not an official member of the President’s administration.
“It is dangerous because it creates the possibility that foreign countries can play various actors within the US off against each other,” he said.
“When you have someone whose interests are not aligned with the US government who is prioritizing his private financial interests, that… makes it a possibility that there’s going to be some compromising of US national security,” Miller added.
Giuliani rejected the notion that he has enriched himself abroad through his associations with the President and said everything he has done is legal.
“I am in private law practice. I practice law honorably and well, never had a complaint. Never had an issue ever in 50 years of private law practice,” Giuliani told CNN.
Giuliani has at times strayed from US policy in his statements during foreign dealings.
When Giuliani visited Armenia, where the nation’s acting defense minister gave him a private briefing in October 2018, a reporter asked, “Mr. Giuliani as an adviser… should [the] Trump administration recognize the Armenian genocide?”
“In order to have peace and security in the Middle East, there has to be a major change in the theocratic dictatorship in Iran. It must end,” Giuliani said, even though the Trump administration has called for a change in Iran’s behavior, not regime change.
He said it wasn’t “uncommon for private citizens to help” the US achieve its policy goals, but that he runs the State Department. “The ultimate responsibility falls to the United States government, for the secretary of state, to deliver on behalf of the outcomes President Trump has committed to the American people he’d achieve.”
Giuliani’s work on behalf of foreign groups has led some Democratic senators to call on the Justice Department to review whether Giuliani has complied with the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA, which requires that representatives of foreign governments and political organizations file public documents that disclose their arrangements.
Sen. Tom Udall, a New Mexico Democrat who coauthored with six other Democratic senators a letter calling for a Justice Department review, told CNN in an interview he believes Giuliani could have violated FARA.
“He’s advising the President. He is being paid by foreign entities, and that is exactly what’s required to be disclosed under the Foreign Agent Registration Act,” Udall said. “I think clearly there may be a violation of the law.”
Hill also described learning of Giuliani’s planned trip to Ukraine in May. “And there was, you know, kind of, quite a bit of consternation of the party of the State Department,” she said.
Giuliani insists he is only guilty of one thing: defending the President.
When questioned by CNN’s Drew Griffin about his international dealings, Giuliani responded, “I am being targeted by CNN because I am proving that you are corrupt in your coverage of the President all throughout this impeachment proceeding.”
CNN’s Noah Broder, Audrey Ash and Michael Dominski contributed to this story.