When two federal prosecutors openly complained about his meeting with a defense lawyer in a sensitive corporate fraud case he was overseeing, he slammed back. "Immature petulance," he said of them, calling their charges "dangerous." The pair saw special commendation awards they were due to get suddenly held back.
Papers released by the National Archives on Wednesday show Giuliani was a master of terse memos as associate attorney general. But get under his skin - say, with an unfavorable story in the press or a challenge from a subordinate - and he was in their face.
In one instance, he wrote a four-page, single-spaced letter telling a columnist why he had done nothing wrong in having a U.S. marshal bring him a seat from old Yankee Stadium for his Washington office.
Giuliani became the Justice Department's No. 3 official at the dawn of the Reagan administration and built a reputation as a solid professional in that politically charged transition from the Jimmy Carter years. He went on to serve as U.S. attorney in New York, and later the city's mayor, before launching his Republican presidential campaign for 2008.
The papers shed light on his two years in the department - and occasionally, on his short fuse. The documents are drawn from the files of his special assistants at Justice, Ken Caruso and Robert Bucknam, and from those of Jeffrey Harris, deputy associate attorney general.
Giuliani knocked heads with department prosecutors in the McDonnell Douglas case, a closely watched test of laws to restrain U.S. corruption abroad. The aircraft maker had been indicted for making more than $1 million in payoffs to Pakistani officials and defrauding Pakistan's airline by adding that cost to the price of the planes it was selling.
In May 1981, he and Caruso met the company's lawyer to discuss the case, which was expected to go to trial that fall. They touched on the possibility of a settlement, according to a memo. When the trial attorneys Michael A. Lubin and George J. Mendelson heard about it, they were livid.
They cited their superior's "conspicuous failure" to tell them he was meeting with the opposing side in a case he controlled, and said such actions eroded public confidence in the justice system.
Those were fighting words.
"Messrs. Lubin and Mendelson displayed a disrespect for the facts and an immature petulance that gives me pause as to the judgments they may have made during their period of service in the department," he said in a letter to the criminal division chief. "It is dangerous, to say the least, for prosecutors to shoot from the hip without checking the accuracy of their charges."
He said he saw no wrong in listening to arguments against proceeding with the case, and no need for the trial attorneys to attend. The department, he said, "is vitally interested in hearing from all sides."
Three months later, Giuliani dropped criminal charges against company executives in return for McDonnell Douglas' guilty plea to wire and mail fraud and making false statements. The company was fined $55,000 and settled a civil suit for $1.2 million.
An internal investigation cleared Giuliani of wrongdoing. Files on that investigation were among documents held back from release because of their sensitive nature. The federal trial attorneys at odds with Giuliani got their awards only after they left to work in private practice, according to James B. Stewart's book, "The Prosecutors."
Caruso later complained about "a bunch of crybabies" in the criminal division.
Before the age of e-mail, Giuliani typed a stream of memos to underlings, often two to six words, initialing them in ink.
On a turf war between agencies over which one would investigate attacks on interstate pipelines: "What do you think?" (The FBI won.)
On a request to investigate election fraud in California: "Please advise me."
On a secretary's complaint that a less qualified paralegal was getting better treatment: "What is this all about?"
On a Missouri official inviting consideration of his study of the insanity defense: "Draft a response, please."
On the need for air conditioning in more offices: "Please help, we're suffocating."
He wrote a long letter to journalist Jack Anderson detailing the saga of how a wood and cast-iron seat from the old Yankee Stadium came to reside in his Justice Department office eight years after an assistant had given it to him.
A Marshals Service retiree had complained that another marshal fetched the seat, at taxpayer expense, to curry favor with Giuliani. But Giuliani insisted the marshal was traveling to Washington anyway on business and simply checked the seat as baggage.
"I am certain that ... you will find it, as I do, an instance of a reporter attempting to manufacture a story out of an insignificant and entirely innocent matter," Giuliani wrote about Anderson's colleague Tony Capaccio, who had interviewed him for the piece. "He has displayed a reckless disregard for the truth and is acting maliciously."
The files, released at the request of researchers, contain reports on organized crime and tell of a 1982 case in Youngstown, Ohio, in which the FBI showed up just in time to stop three mobsters from killing the owner of a garden nursery.
"Intervention by the FBI proved timely for the victim," the report said, "inasmuch as his head had been wrapped in duct tape."