A former Watergate prosecutor based in Miami may have a big say in whether Rudy Giuliani complies with a subpoena from lawmakers conducting impeachment hearings in the House of Representatives.
Giuliani has tapped Miami-based veteran attorney Jon A. Sale, of counsel with Nelson Mullins, to represent him before the congressional inquiry into whether President Donald Trump improperly pressured Ukraine’s president for a political favor.
“This subpoena is very complex because it raises a lot of issues — including privilege and constitutional issues — so it requires serious analysis,” Sale said in a brief telephone interview Tuesday afternoon. “There’s a lot of work involved here.”
A former New York University law school classmate of Giuliani, Sale was a junior prosecutor during the Watergate probe and is often described as the dean of the white-collar defense bar in South Florida.
While Giuliani is seen as bombastic in both the political and legal arenas, Sale is seen as the proverbial Zen-like wise counsel.
The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence subpoenaed documents from Giuliani on Monday, giving him until Oct. 15 to produce documents. The committee’s subpoena was in consultation with the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Committee on Oversight and Reform.
“Our inquiry includes an investigation of credible allegations that you acted as an agent of the President in a scheme to advance his personal interests by abusing the power of the Office of the President,” read the letter Monday conveying the subpoena.
In tapping Sale to represent him before the congressional inquiry, Giuliani selected someone who is a friend and a veteran of both Washington and New York legal dramas.
Over a long career, Sale worked as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York, and in the District of Connecticut. He also served as a chief assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of Florida.
Sale is also no stranger to navigating the ways of Washington, having served as an assistant special Watergate prosecutor looking into the secret White House tapes of President Richard M. Nixon. Sale worked under two special prosecutors — Archibald Cox and Leon Jaworski.
The hiring of Sale got a thumbs-up from a prominent peer.
“Even if you want to debate Rudy’s conduct to date, there can be no debate that he has made the best possible choice by having Jon Sale at his side,” said David Oscar Markus, a South Florida criminal defense attorney. “Jon is the voice of reason with the public, prosecutors, courts, congressmen, and lawyers on both sides of the aisle.”
The veteran attorney said he has never represented Giuliani before, but considers the former New York mayor and vocal Trump surrogate a longtime friend.
“I have known Mayor Giuliani, and he’s been a friend of mine, for a long time,” he said, adding, “This is not my first rodeo.”
Sale said he is not representing the two Soviet-born Ukrainians from South Florida who have been asked to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry because of their role in introducing Giuliani to political figures abroad.
In response to the subpoena, Giuliani tweeted Monday evening that Democrats have prejudged the matter.
“It raises significant issues concerning legitimacy and constitutional and legal issues, including, inter alia, attorney client and other privileges,” he tweeted, hinting at legal strategy.
Sale’s name was widely circulated as a candidate for the U.S. Attorney’s Office position in the Southern District of Florida after Donald Trump won the presidential election in 2016. He was wooed by the White House not only because of his stellar legal credentials, but in part because of his tight connections with Giuliani.
A member of the federal judicial nominating commission in Florida, Sale is also the judicially appointed adviser to the federal sentencing commission in the southeast region.
Politically Sale is not viewed as a conservative. He is a moderate molded by his upbringing and career among both Democrats and Republicans in the Northeast and Florida.
Over the past year, he often appeared on Fox News but also on other cable channels to explain the legal machinations of the Mueller investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
His wife, Jayne Weintraub, is a noted criminal attorney who appears frequently on cable television shows as a legal analyst.
-- Kevin G. Hall and Jay Weaver