Trump lawyer denounces ‘excesses’ of Romania’s anti-corruption efforts

Attorney to US President Donald J. Trump Rudy Giuliani wipes his brow before the start of the White House Sports and Fitness Day at the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC, USA, 30 May 2018. [EPA-EFE/MICHAEL REYNOLDS]

US President Donald Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, has written a surprise letter to Romania’s president, accusing the Eastern European country’s anti-corruption efforts of going too far and calling for amnesty for those already prosecuted and convicted.

Giuliani, a former mayor of New York City, backed controversial government actions that have prompted mass protests across Romania in recent weeks but denounced the National Anti-corruption Directorate (DNA).

In a letter to Romanian head of state Klaus Iohannis dated 22 August, Giuliani said that progress made in the Eastern European nation since the fall of communism in 1989 had been “undermined by the excesses of the DNA”.

The letter came from the desk of Giuliani’s New York law firm and expressed his own concerns and not those of Trump. But this did not prevent the Romanian government from trying to present the letter as the official position of the White House.

Giuliani also referred to so-called “secret protocols” between Romania’s intelligence services (SI) and various institutions, urging the government to establish an independent body of judges to look into the matter.

Romanian EU-funded project accused of data protection violations

The Romanian government has been accused of bias in its awarding of EU funding to the country’s intelligence services. The e-Governance project is also facing serious allegations that it violates European and domestic laws on personal data protection.

Trump’s lawyer in particular mentioned Laura Codruta Kövesi, the former head of the DNA, who was sacked by Iohannis in July. The president had refused over the course of several months to dismiss Kövesi but ultimately caved into pressure from the ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD).

Her sacking prompted criticism from both the United States and the European Union, and was the catalyst for one of the many anti-government protests that have swept the streets of Romania this year.

Giuliani claims in his letter that Kövesi oversaw intimidation of judges and lawyers, illegal wiretapping and forced confessions. He called on Iohannis to grant amnesty to anyone prosecuted and convicted “under the excesses of the DNA”.

Such clemency would directly benefit the leader of the PSD, Liviu Dragnea, whose two criminal convictions preclude him from holding the office of prime minister, although he is widely considered the de facto leader of the government.

Dragnea supported Giuliani’s comments in a Facebook post on Monday (27 August) and is embroiled in a long-running war of words with Iohannis.

But the US itself has moved to distance itself from Giuliani, who has no formal role in defining foreign policy. The American embassy in Bucharest declined to comment on “the views or conclusions of a private US citizen”.

According to Transparency International, Romania ranks 59th out of 180 on its corruption perception index, two places below Saudi Arabia.

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