WASHINGTON — Rudolph W. Giuliani, who led President Donald J. Trump’s bid to reverse the results of the 2020 election as his personal attorney, abruptly withdrew Thursday from a scheduled Friday interview with the House committee investigating the attack. January 6 at the Capitol after the panel refused to let him record the session.
Giuliani has been negotiating with the panel over witness statements for months and has finally reached an agreement to speak on matters other than his talks with Trump or any other topic he believes falls under attorney-client privilege, his attorney, Robert J. costello.
Mr Giuliani’s sudden withdrawal threatens what could have been a major breakthrough for the investigation. His testimony could have included details of interactions with members of Congress and others involved in the plans who were not Mr Giuliani’s clients, Mr Costello said. And with Giuliani under subpoena to testify, the standoff raises the specter of yet another protracted legal battle between the commission and a former Trump aide.
The standoff began when Mr Costello told the committee on Thursday that Mr Giuliani intended to videotape the interview. When the panel’s attorneys refused him, he canceled the meeting, Mr. costello.
“He is willing to talk about anything that is not privileged,” said Mr Costello. “The only bottleneck we’ve had is recording the interview. That tells me they are more interested in keeping things a secret than in finding out the so-called truth. If you are interested in the person’s testimony, why not agree to it?”
Mr Costello said Mr Giuliani’s testimony was not yet off the table and that he would continue to negotiate with the panel’s lawyers. He said Mr. Giuliani, a former mayor of New York, “just doesn’t trust members of the commission, especially California Democrat Adam B. Schiff,” and believes they will selectively edit his testimony.
“If they changed their mind and said, ‘Listen, we’re recording the interview together,’ we would be in,” said Mr Costello.
Tim Mulvey, a spokesman for the commission, said the panel would consider enforcement action against Mr Giuliani if he does not change course and comply with the commission’s subpoena.
“Mr. Giuliani had agreed to participate in a transcribed interview with the select committee. Today, he informed committee investigators that he would not show up unless he was allowed to record the interview, which was never a agreed condition,” said Mr. Mulvey. “Mr. Giuliani is a key witness to the conspiracy to overthrow the government, and he remains on trial. If he refuses to comply, the commission will consider all enforcement options.”
The commission interviewed more than 970 witnesses and recommended that four of Trump’s closest allies, who have refused to cooperate fully, be charged with criminal contempt of Congress.
Trump’s last chief of staff, Mark Meadows, has been referred to the Justice Department for possible criminal charges after he declined an interview with the commission. Another former aide, Stephen K. Bannon, was charged in November for refusing to provide information to congressional investigators.
Last month, the House voted to recommend criminal contempt for the charges by Congress against Peter Navarro and Dan Scavino Jr., two of Mr. Trump’s other close allies, after the pair defied commission subpoenas.
The Justice Department has not yet acted on the referrals for Mr Meadows, Mr Navarro and Mr Scavino.
A key figure in Trump’s efforts to avert election defeat, Giuliani could tell investigators about a series of extraordinary measures taken last fall and winter to keep the losing president in his power.
One such effort was a plan to disrupt the normal functioning of the electoral college by persuading lawmakers in contested swing states to create alternative voter rolls that showed Mr. Trump was victorious in states actually won by President Biden.
Mr. Giuliani was also instrumental in vetting a plan to use the Department of Homeland Security to seize voting machines and examine the data stored therein for alleged evidence of fraud. At the direction of Mr. Trump asked Mr. Giuliani a top homeland security official whether the department could legally take control of the machines — an idea that shot the official down. Giuliani later opposed an even more explosive proposal to have the military confiscate the machines.
Giuliani was subpoenaed along with other members of a legal team that labeled themselves an “elite strike force” and filed a series of lawsuits on Trump’s behalf, promulgating conspiracy theories and making unsubstantiated claims about election fraud.
The commission’s subpoena sought all documents Mr. Giuliani had detailing the press campaign he and other Trump allies began against state officials, the seizure of voting machines, contact with members of Congress, any evidence to support the conspiracy theories he alleged. pushed and any arrangements for his fee.
On Jan. 6, Mr. Giuliani spoke to a crowd of Trump supporters before a pro-Trump mob attacked the Capitol, calling for “trial by fight.” Later, after the building was besieged, he and Mr. Trump called lawmakers in an effort to delay the certification of Mr. Biden’s victory.