Former New York mayor Rudolph “Rudy” Giuliani may have retired from politics years ago, but he is still making splashes all over the US and this week in Israel with his shoot from- the-hip style.
Here on an inaugural visit in his new capacity (he’s been to Israel in other capacities around a dozen times since 1985) as the head of US-based law firm Greenberg Traurig’s Cybersecurity and Crisis Management Practice, Giuliani sat down on Monday for a wide-ranging interview with The Jerusalem Post.
Besides visiting Greenberg Traurig’s Israel office, a key spot for the firm’s cybersecurity footprint and for doing international business in the neighboring regions, Giuliani is once again making major headlines as one of the more respected top Republicans willing to support Donald J. Trump for US president.
In an odd election cycle, top Republicans leaders may vote for presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton or sit out the election, because of their disdain for Trump, his statements and the sectors he has offended.
In the midst of this, Giuliani, who ran for president unsuccessfully in 2008, has stood out since January for preferring Trump over Ted Cruz and acting as an explainer for some of Trump’s bizarre and controversial positions, although he has yet to formally endorse him.
grilled Giuliani in greater detail than has been done to date on specific statements and positions of Trump.
Reading the first half of a list of Trump’s controversial positions, Giuliani started to laugh and pointed out that the Post
had left out Trump’s position on banning Muslims from entering the US.
Shifting gears, the Post
noted that was further down on the list, but engaged Giuliani on that issue, on the issue of Trump saying he would be a neutral broker between Israel and the Palestinians, which has angered Israel and Jewish groups, and on the list of top Republicans dead set against Trump.
Noting many of Trump’s fiercest critics are respected friends of his, he said, “I think they are overreacting to his overreactions. He’s a strong supporter of Israel. I think he’s walked back that statement about neutrality,” adding that Trump’s statement banning Muslims from coming to the US “was an overstatement.”
Giuliani explained that Trump “has since clarified to me that the ban should be temporary, and that when we do allow Muslims in the US, we should do serious background checks... with distinctions based on the country you come from.”
The former New York mayor said that Trump was “reacting to the situation facing [German Chancellor] Angela Merkel, taking [in droves of] Syrians, reacting to statements by ISIS that it will use that as a way for sneaking in terrorists – and they already have. According to the head of the FBI, there are many more Islamic extremists in the US, more than we realize.”
Returning to a list of top Republican critics of Trump mentioned by the Post who have declared support for Clinton or for sitting out the election, he said, “The people you mentioned, they are overreacting to a first-time candidate who is learning how to say things as the campaign moves along.”
Next, the Post
confronted Giuliani with a contrast between a statement he made to the World Jewish Congress Sunday night and statements by Trump relating to respect for the law.
Giuliani told Sunday night’s crowd that one reason he believes the West will triumph over Islamic terrorism and Islamic State is that even as it fights hard, it has values, such as not killing innocent people.
But Trump recently said multiple times that he would be ready to order the targeting of terrorists’ families, with no clarification about caring whether they are connected to terrorism or innocent.
Former CIA and NSA director Michael Hayden, not known as soft on terrorism, blasted Trump for the statement and said that the US military would refuse such an order from a hypothetical president Trump as against “all of the international laws of armed conflict.”
Giuliani again explained what he believed Trump meant (Trump himself did eventually, uncharacteristically, offer a small clarification about commitment to law).
“I think he was responding to what ISIS has done very effectively, surrounding itself with innocent civilians. If the only way you can attack is to kill civilians, that is part of the price of war,” he said.
In other words, though Trump never mentioned the dilemma of “collateral damage,” unintentionally killing civilians while hunting terrorists, and instead sounded like he was ready to kill terrorists’ families punitively for their relatives’ actions, Giuliani believed Trump was talking about that dilemma when hunting terrorists.
He compared Trump’s statements to the moral dilemma of former US president Harry Truman dropping nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II to save up to one million American lives which might have been lost in an invasion, noting he might not be around without that decision, since his father “fought in the Pacific.”
He said that Trump “had walked back” or clarified many of his more controversial statements and should get some slack as a “first-timer” in politics.
At this point, the Post asked how Giuliani could view Trump as being ready to be president, if he is a “first-timer” and has made so many controversial statements that needed to be explained. In other words, what kind of damage would be done if a president Trump made such statements? Giuliani responded, “He’ll be ready to do it. I’ve known him for a long time. I know he’s a reasonable man. He won’t like me saying this, but he is a man prone to exaggerate the way that he speaks, which is not necessarily the way he acts.
“It’s part of being a good negotiator. When he sits down and makes a decision, he is an exceedingly rational man. You need to separate the rhetoric from the reality,” Giuliani continued.
Explaining his case for supporting Trump over Cruz, he said that he likes the tycoon’s “private-sector experience,” his projecting strength on foreign policy and that, as a practical matter, he is most likely to win at this point.
Generally, he said that he expects Trump and any of the other candidates to “lower taxes, reduce regulations to make things easier on business and give business more of a chance to grow, to not create class warfare and bring people out of poverty through growth.”
On foreign policy, he stated he expects a president Trump to “restore America as a world leader, where President Obama has taken a secondary role.”
Asked if he would have supported Jeb Bush, Giuliani being a big fan of the Bush family, he said that “when it was a much larger race, it would have been a closer question,” and cited Bush and Chris Christie as other candidates who had dropped out whom he greatly admired.
Moving on to how the US and Israel should deal with the challenges presented by Iran post the major July 2015 nuclear deal, Giuliani was off to the races. He slammed Iran’s increased missile capacity for violating UN resolutions and insisted that the “next president can easily disavow the deal since it was never submitted to Congress for approval.”
Next, he was pressed about whether disavowing the deal and restoring US sanctions are just a slogan, since there is no expectation that the rest of the world would follow and the direct impact of US sanctions on Iran has always been limited.
“We still are the world’s leading economy; we can extend sanctions to governments who do business with Iran. Iran’s economy is in bad shape. Russia can’t help – and look at the price of oil. Iran is in a massive recession. Iran depends on the price of oil,” he said.
Giuliani argued that sanctions by the US could impact Iran “even if China and Russia tried to undercut them.”
Asked whether the deal and Iran’s public compliance with its initial obligations under the deal, including, critically, giving away almost all of its enriched uranium, mean that any military option is off the table, Giuliani countered, “I have always said we would not take attacking Iran off table as an option. I urge the next president to put it on the table. The simple answer is that Iran should not become a nuclear power, so whatever it takes to stop them...”
With regard to what redlines he would set in dealing with Iran’s nuclear program, Giuliani said, “I would set down redlines now and have them deconstruct their facilities, with sanctions until they do, and if they started moving toward being a nuclear power again – consider the possibility of an attack.”
Honing in on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the current six-month-old third intifada, Giuliani said that while he “can’t comment on all of it... but what I do know is, you gotta do everything you can to stop the knifings with very effective policing and quick decisive action.
“So far you’ve been doing that, a lot of attackers have been killed on the spot. The [Jerusalem] mayor [Nir Barkat] told me that 80 percent of those engaged in attacks have been killed. If that rate continues, it [the intifada] will end pretty fast,” he said.
Connecting his view on the intifada to fighting terrorism more generally, he stated, “It’s interesting.
We have this debate in the US as to whether acts of terror are military attacks, and you are dealing with them as military attacks, and I think you are right.
“Obama turning terror into criminal cases is a mistake. They are acts of war, they are not the same as a knifing taking place because someone is stealing a purse. The knifings taking place are in pursuance of a war, of jihadism. They are taking place to further create the Palestinian Authority or to create the caliphate, depending on who is doing it,” he said.
Diving into the cyber dimension, Giuliani next discussed how the US and Israel should respond to cyber attacks from adversaries like China and Iran.
Giuliani explained that there are “two parts to do it – defensive and offensive.... I believe there are technologies that governments are not using for defense which they could... though I am not free to discuss them in detail,” he continued.
Asked why he believed governments are not using these technologies, he said, “I don’t know why governments are not using them, but businesses should present them to governments as a model.”
Moreover, he stated, “We often don’t protect ourselves at the point of greatest vulnerability. Anyone working for the government should have identity protection so if they are privately hacked, it can be picked up immediately. Sometimes the [hackers’] way through [security] systems is the middle-level employees.”
Governments like to “spend big money on major systems, but not mid-level employees.”
Regarding offensive responses to cyber attacks, he said, “it depends on the nature of the attack. If it is a commercial attack, then respond to it by allowing our commercial interests to respond in kind.”
However, “If it is an attack on national security” – Russia shutting down a Ukrainian city, for example – “then you respond the way Israel responds to terrorist attacks – four times greater.”
Giuliani continued, “We need to get ourselves ready for that,” noting that attacks, like a presumed 2013 Iranian cyber attack on a small damn in New York City’s suburbs, could “require very serious offensive countermeasures, hopefully convincing Iran or China not to do it again.”
And this brought things back full circle to Giuliani’s reasons for joining Greenberg Traurig to run its cybersecurity practice.
He said he moved to the firm after many years co-leading the Bracewell & Giuliani firm for “a very large world platform that we have, being in every city in the US and in many countries in the world.”
Giuliani said this meant that he could jump from two big projects to seven to nine big projects, and that he also liked that many of the firm’s lawyers are former US and SEC attorneys.
He concluded that he also opted for Greenberg Traurig because of its Israel office, which is “one of the reasons this is one of the first places I’ve visited,” being a longtime fan of the country and now a fan of its cybersecurity sector. In a Tuesday speech to Ben-Gurion University, he said: “Now I can see the future.... You are at the forefront” of cybersecurity.