Giuliani Defends Disgraced Aide's Record

Republican presidential hopeful, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, campaigns in Dixville Notch, N.H., Friday, Nov. 2, 2007.
AP
Rudy Giuliani said Monday that if his achievements as president are as good as the crime-reduction results of his New York police commissioner, a man now under criminal investigation himself, "this country will be in great shape."

Giuliani, in an interview with The Associated Press, acknowledged mistakes by Bernard Kerik, who was police commissioner when Giuliani was mayor. But he said crime reduction for the city was more important.

Kerik, whom Giuliani pushed to head the federal Department of Homeland Security, is under investigation on what could be multiple felony charges. Giuliani said he hadn't spoken to his friend and one-time business partner recently and had no idea what implication a Kerik indictment or plea deal could have on his presidential campaign.

"I have no idea what's going to happen, first of all, nor do I have any idea what he's going to do," the Republican contender said.

Giuliani has accepted responsibility for his role in Kerik's embarrassing 2004 withdrawal as President Bush's Homeland Security nominee after revelation of tax problems. Ethics questions and corruption allegations also have swirled around Kerik. But the former New York mayor said the results of the commissioner's time in New York far outweigh isolated incidences.

"Bernie Kerik worked for me while I was mayor of New York City. There were mistakes made with Bernie Kerik. But what's the ultimate result for the people of New York City? The ultimate result for the people of New York City was a 74 percent reduction in shootings, a 60 percent reduction in crime, a correction program that went from being one of the worst in the country to one that was on '60 Minutes' as one of the best in the country, 90 percent reduction of violence in the jails."

"Sure, there were issues, but if I have the same degree of success and failure as president of the United States, this country will be in great shape," Giuliani said.

On another controversial topic, Giuliani wouldn't rule out the use of interrogation procedure known as waterboarding that many consider torture.

"If you take a simplistic position on it, you're probably irresponsible," Giuliani said. "I should not take a position on waterboarding until I know precisely what we're talking about. If we're talking about what the media says constitutes waterboarding, I have said that I think that's repulsive. But I've also said that I have not been briefed on precisely what we do. I would want to keep an open mind until I heard that."

As for Kerik, Giuliani said, "It was a mistake not checking him out as thoroughly as I should have. ... I don't like surprises. I don't like to find out things that I haven't found out myself. Not that it hasn't happened to me before. But I try to tighten up the whole thing and make sure we do a better job in the future."

Federal prosecutors in New York have spent more than a year pursuing criminal charges against Kerik, reportedly including bribery, tax evasion, obstruction of justice, providing false information and conspiracy to eavesdrop. Kerik rejected a plea deal in the spring, but meetings have continued.

"I made mistakes. I will continue to make mistakes," Giuliani said. "But what are the results? What kind of results do I get? What Bernie Kerik did wrong did not implicate what the results were for the public. What he did wrong, he's going to have to pay for."

In a way, Giuliani said, his own mistakes just show how experienced he is.

"When you do a lot of things, there are more things where you've made mistakes," he said. "Anybody running for president that hasn't made their share of mistakes is probably not ready to be president. The question is, in spite of the mistakes that you make, are most of your decisions correct?"

Giuliani laughed when asked if he would ever release a list of clients involved with his consulting firm, Giuliani Partners.

"Everything I did with Giuliani Partners has been totally legal, totally ethical. They are a very ethical and law-abiding business. ... There's nothing for me to explain about it. We've acted honorably, decently."

He said the media have vetted most of the clients and have found nothing wrong.

"There are some things that a law firm and security firm do that are confidential. You can't release it because the client asks for confidentiality. We do sensitive work. So maybe there are some exceptions like that."

Giuliani said it's unfair to ask the question.

"What's the standard? Giuliani Partners and Bracewell Giuliani are firms. Nobody has ever accused them of doing anything wrong. So all of the sudden, you are going to start jumping to conclusions about them when there are absolutely no suggestion they have done anything wrong?"

On the subject of Pakistan, where President Pervez Musharraf suspended the constitution on Saturday, Giuliani said, "What we do with Pakistan is help them to try to remain stable and that's a very delicate thing. Musharraf is sitting on top of a very, very difficult situation. We want him to move toward democracy. But at the same time, we want to keep that government together."

Giuliani said he wouldn't urge the Bush administration to cut off financial aid to the Musharraf government.

"I would not second-guess any president on that because I think they're in the middle of a very difficult situation right now," he said.