Before he was President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani was involved in a debate within the Trump administration over an adversary of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Bloomberg reported Monday.
At one point, Giuliani reportedly participated in a phone call about Department of Education grants to a network of charter schools affiliated with the Erdogan adversary, the Pennsylvania-based cleric Fethullah Gulen. Bloomberg cited an unnamed person who was also on the call.
It’s the latest in a string of reports on Giuliani’s advocacy for priorities of the Turkish leader. Also in early 2017, Giuliani was pushing the White House to kick Gulen out of the United States. Erdogan blames Gulen for a failed 2016 coup attempt in Turkey.
It isn’t clear how the issue of school funds became a White House focus; the money is distributed by the federal government to the states, which parcel it out to schools.
But in the run-up to Trump’s first meeting with Erdogan in 2017, the White House zeroed in on federal funds benefitting the Gulen-linked schools.
Per Bloomberg, the National Security Council and Domestic Policy Council at the White House asked the Department of Education if it would be possible to block the funds.
The White House reportedly even suggested specific lines of inquiry, such as whether the schools were being used to launder money, or whether Gulen’s status as a religious leader could mean that the schools were religious institutions ineligible for federal funds.
The Education Department pushed back against the request, Bloomberg reported.
Separately, the White House gave then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson a pamphlet about the Gulen-affiliated schools at Giuliani’s request, according to an unnamed person familiar with the matter. Tillerson threw the document out, concluding it was just an advertisement for the schools, Bloomberg reported.
In early 2017, Giuliani joined the legal team of a Turkish gold trader, Reza Zarrab, charged with an Iranian sanctions evasion scheme. As part of that work, Giuliani said in an affidavit that he was focused primarily on “whether this case can be resolved as part of some agreement between the United States and Turkey.”
That fall, Trump reportedly told Giuliani and his Zarrab co-counsel Michael Mukasey to make their case to Tillerson for a prisoner swap that would release the Turkish trader.
“Guys, give Rex your pitch,” Trump reportedly said, according to a source who spoke to the Washington Post. A few months later, Giuliani joined Trump’s legal team.