Rudy and Kerik: The Red Flags Rudy Didn't See
(Photo: James Estrin, New York Times)
The New York Times has a new, five page article article on Rudy Giuliani's Bernie Kerik problem, explaining how it casts doubt on his credibility, his leadership potential and his judgment.
I've written about this so many times, most recently here, but there are some new tidbits in the article, so let's review. For a theme, think, "The Red Flags Rudy Didn't See."
The principal flag, while not being the first one, dates to 2000, before Rudy made Bernie police commissioner. It concerns Kerik's lobbying activities for Interstate, a construction company with reputed mob-ties and millions in city contracts that employed both Kerik's brother and Larry Ray, his good friend and best man at his wedding.
Initially, Rudy said he didn't know about Kerik's ties to Interstate or Ray at the time.
“I was not informed of it,” Mr. Giuliani said then, when asked if he had been warned about Mr. Kerik’s relationship with Interstate before appointing him to the police post in 2000.
In 2006, Rudy got called to the grand jury investigating Kerik. He acknowledged that Ed Kuriansky, then the city's investigations commissioner, had told him he briefed Rudy on the matter. But, Rudy told the grand jury, he didn't recall that Kuriansky had told him specifically about Kerik's ties to Interstate or Larry Ray.
Kuriansky is now deceased, but in 2004, he told investigators he did brief Rudy on it:
....a review of Mr. Kuriansky’s diaries, and investigators’ notes from a 2004 interview with him, now indicate that such a session indeed took place. What is more, Mr. Kuriansky also recalled briefing one of Mr. Giuliani’s closest aides, Dennison Young Jr., about Mr. Kerik’s entanglements with the company just days before the police appointment, according to the diaries he compiled at the time and his later recollection to the investigators.
Rudy also told the grand jury Kuriansky had concluded Bernie's ties to Interstate weren't a problem for being named police commissioner.
Let's give Rudy the benefit of the doubt and assume that's true. What about the fact that when he was considering Kerik for police commissioner, more than half of his mayoral cabinet opposed the appointment? This was Rudy's response:
Mr. Giuliani waved off the dissenters. “I believe that the skill I have developed better than any other was surrounding myself with great people,” Mr. Giuliani wrote in his 2002 book, “Leadership.”
Skipping to Rudy's recommending Kerik for the Homeland Security top job:
By the time Mr. Giuliani recommended [Kerik] for the federal job, his administration knew that Mr. Kerik had acted on behalf of Interstate Industrial. It also knew that he had drawn criticism for a range of other incidents, from sending detectives to search for his lover’s cellphone to using officers to research his autobiography.
The remainder of the article is filled with other warning signs Rudy missed. Let's look at a few.
Rudy elevated Kerik from arranging his security detail to a job in corrections to being his first deputy corrections commissioner. At the time, even Kerik knew he wasn't qualified. He wrote in his book:
“Mayor, I appreciate your confidence in me, I really do,” [Kerik] said. “But I ran a jail. One jail. Rikers is like 10 jails.” Just do it, the mayor replied.
Here's how Kerik performed as corrections commissioner:
Mr. Kerik ruled like a feudal lord, many former employees have said. He had taken up with a woman who was a correction officer; he was accused of directing officers to staff his wedding. He befriended the agency’s inspector general, whose watchdog responsibilities require keeping an arm’s-length relationship, and the investigator attended his wedding.
...As the years passed, one of his top deputies was convicted of taking $142,000 from a Correction Department charity that Mr. Kerik headed. Another deputy, Anthony S. Serra, became a warden at Rikers Island even after he was accused of coercing officers to work on Republican campaigns. He was later convicted of forcing staff members to do campaign work and dispatching officers to renovate his upstate home.
The next section provides more details about Kerik's ties to Interstate. First off, after his pal Larry Ray paid for his wedding, at which he was best man, Kerik got Interstate to hire Ray in a $100k a year job. Why?
Two years earlier, the owners, Peter and Frank DiTommaso, had paid more than $1 million to buy a transfer station from Edward Garafola, a mob soldier, and hoped to obtain a city operating license. But city investigators had found that the company employed mob figures and used mob-controlled trucking firms.
The DiTommasos, who adamantly and repeatedly have denied any ties to organized crime, hoped Mr. Ray could help resolve their problem with the Giuliani administration.
Ray took the owner to meet with Kerik.
Mr. DiTommaso recalled the moment for city investigators: “Mr. Ray walked into the office, unannounced, just walked right in; Mr. Kerik got up and came around the desk and give him a big hug and a kiss.”
After that, Interstate hired Kerik's brother and Kerik began lobbying the Giuliani administration on Interstate's behalf. Examples of his lobbying:
One night in July 1999, he sat in Walker’s, a bar in downtown Manhattan, defending Interstate to Raymond V. Casey, a cousin of Mayor Giuliani who was chief of enforcement for the city commission that was reviewing Interstate’s license application. Later that year Mr. Kerik telephoned an assistant commissioner at the Department of Investigation to say that Interstate’s owners, as far as he knew, were clean of mob taint, according to a person familiar with her account.
The lobbying ended in March, 2000 with the federal indictment of Larry Ray and "mob soldier" Garafola in a stock deal. After the Indictment, "top Giuliani officials suspended Interstate’s $85 million in city contracts."
Kerik was called in for questioning.
Three weeks later, Mr. Kerik sat down for a nearly two-hour interview with top officials at the Department of Investigation. He talked about his relationship with Mr. Ray and the DiTommasos, about the hiring of his brother and the meeting at Walker’s.
Bernie didn't tell the officials that "Interstate was paying for $165,000 worth of renovations on his new apartment in the Bronx." Those are the renovations that were the subject of his state court misdemeanor guilty pleas last year. Bernie never paid taxes on the $165,000.
Two months after his Administration canceled Interstate's contracts because of Ray and Garafola's indictment and Kerik was questioned about Interstate, in May, 2000, Rudy began considering making Bernie police commissioner. Again,
Mr. Kuriansky, the investigation commissioner, oversaw the background checks.....Mr. Kuriansky, a former special prosecutor, knew that Mr. Kerik had intervened on behalf of a firm suspected of mob ties and that the commissioner’s brother and best friend worked for the company.
Kuriansky's diaries and notes show he briefed Rudy once and a staffer another time on Kerik, Larry Ray and Interstate. Rudy's recollection is that while Kuriansky later told him he'd been briefed before the appointment, he has no recall of any briefing by Kuriansky that included mention of Kerik's ties to Interstate or Larry Ray.
In August, 2000, Rudy named Kerik police commissioner. Let's look at the flags Rudy overlooked while Kerik was in that job:
Behind the scenes, Mr. Kerik surrounded himself with police and correction buddies. When his book publisher and lover, Judith Regan, believed someone had stolen her cellphone and a piece of her jewelry, a Kerik aide dispatched elite homicide detectives to question suspects.
In researching his book, Mr. Kerik sent officers to investigate his mother’s death, an abuse for which the city’s Conflict of Interest Board later fined him $2,500.
Then came 9/11, and Bernie shared in Rudy's good press, mostly, according to the Times, for his demeanor standing next to Rudy. Of course,
Three years later, after his federal nomination was withdrawn, it was discovered that he had used an apartment originally set aside for weary rescue workers at ground zero as a nest for an extramarital affair with Ms. Regan.
When Rudy left office in 2002 and started his security firm, Giuliani Partners, Bernie went along. A year later, Bernie was off to Iraq for President Bush. Let's look at how he did there:
After Mr. Giuliani left office in 2002, Mr. Kerik joined him at his new consulting firm, Giuliani Partners. In 2003, President Bush sent Mr. Kerik to Iraq to reorganize the Iraqi police force. In Baghdad, he signed autographs, surrounded himself with South African bodyguards, slept during the day and joined Iraqi paramilitary units on corruption raids late into the night. He decided to leave suddenly after three months.
Bernie, ever the good soldier, campaigned for Bush in 2004 and Bush liked him. When the homeland security job came up, Rudy recommended him for the job and Bush gave it to him. Rudy even helped Bennie prep for the interviews, notwithstanding new flags had gone up:
By this time, Mr. Kerik’s former warden, Mr. Serra, had been indicted. Another top aide, Frederick J. Patrick, had been sentenced to prison and had been told to reimburse $142,000 taken from the foundation he ran with Mr. Kerik. And newspapers had written of Mr. Kerik’s efforts to protect a correction aide accused of beating his lover.
But if Mr. Giuliani or Mr. Bush took notice, the issues did not give them pause. “He was a champion of him,” Andrew Card, chief of staff to Mr. Bush at the time, recently recalled of Mr. Giuliani. “It wasn’t an arm-twisting session. It was more of a character reference.”
We all know how that ended. A week after being nominated, it was discovered that Bernie's nanny was an undocumented resident and he never paid taxes for her.
Then there's this: After the news broke of Bernie's connection to Interstate and Larry Ray, Rudy was asked whether, in retrospect, Bernie should have been named police commissioner. His answer was yes:
“Sometimes you look back on some of these choices and you made the wrong one,” he said. “In this case, he turned out to be the right one.”
Returning one more time to the grand jury:
On April 20, 2006, before a state grand jury, a prosecutor in the Bronx district attorney’s office peppered Mr. Giuliani, one of the most powerful prosecutors in the late 20th century, about his apparent lack of memory.
Would you have considered it unusual and significant, the prosecutor asked, if as mayor in 2000 you had been told that a close friend of your correction commissioner had been indicted in a federal case with organized crime figures?“It’s really a hypothetical question,” Mr. Giuliani replied. “I mean, sure, it would have been unusual, sure.”
But it wasn't hypothetical.
What it means:
The additional evidence raises questions not only about the precision of Mr. Giuliani’s recollection, but also about how a man who proclaims his ability to pick leaders came to overlook a jumble of disturbing information about Mr. Kerik, even as he pushed him for two crucial government positions.
If Kerik's going to be indicted, November 17th is the last day....unless Kerik's lawyers again agree to extend the statute of limitations. If Kerik is indicted, you can bet this story will play long and hard during the campaign.
And it should. Not because Rudy did anything illegal, but because he may be the worst judge of character of all the presidential candidates, because he brings his misguided personal loyalties into his business world (which business will be running our government and leading our nation if he gets elected President)and because he's so blind he still doesn't get it.
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