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Report: Tillerson Rejected Trump Request as Illegal

Bloomberg: Then-secretary of state declined to have DOJ drop a case against Giuliani client
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 10, 2019 9:25 AM CDT
In this June 12, 2017, file photo, then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, left, and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner listen as President Trump speaks during a Cabinet meeting.   (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

(Newser) Bloomberg is out with a report that it says is in sync with President Trump's test-the-boundaries style of governing. In 2017, Trump asked then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to get the Justice Department to drop a case against an Iranian-Turkish man who just happened to be a client of Rudy Giuliani's, per Bloomberg's sources; Tillerson, however, rejected the Oval Office request and complained to then-chief of staff John Kelly that it would have been illegal. Guiliani at the time wasn't Trump's attorney, as he is now, though he was a big supporter. His client was gold trader Reza Zarrab, who was accused of helping Iran dodge US sanctions and who eventually agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.

Another figure who'd been pushing for Zarrab's release: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the news this week over a different matter of US foreign policy. "It isn't clear whether Trump considered his request for Tillerson to intervene to be improper or was just testing the bounds of what he could do as president on an issue that could provide diplomatic benefits while also helping Giuliani," per Bloomberg. Guiliani, for his part, shrugs off the controversy: "Suppose I did talk to Trump about it—so what? I was a private lawyer at the time." Things get even more tangled: Law & Crime notes that Robert Mueller looked into whether former national security adviser Michael Flynn improperly talked with Turkish officials in the weeks before Trump's inauguration about Zarrab's case. (Read more Rex Tillerson stories.)

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