- Associated Press - Thursday, April 20, 2017

NEW YORK (AP) - Rudy Giuliani has been lobbying U.S. officials to go easy on a client charged with helping Iran evade U.S. sanctions because the man could be a potential bargaining chip in a national security deal with Turkey, the former New York City mayor and close ally of President Donald Trump said in a court filing.

Giuliani was hired recently, along with former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, to represent Reza Zarrab, an Istanbul businessman accused of conspiring to process hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of financial transactions for Iranian businesses or Iran’s government from 2010 to 2015.

Zarrab, 33, who has pleaded not guilty, is a well-known personality in Turkey partly because he is married to Turkish pop star and TV personality Ebru Gundes. He also was a central player in a massive 2013 corruption and bribery scandal in Turkey, though criminal charges were ultimately dropped.

In papers unsealed late Wednesday, Giuliani and Mukasey said they were hired “principally although not exclusively on an effort to determine whether this case can be resolved as part of some agreement between the United States and Turkey that will promote the national security interests of the United States and redound to the benefit of Mr. Zarrab.”

The two lawyers met recently with Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, after notifying Attorney General Jeff Sessions and federal prosecutors that they planned to do so in late February, when Preet Bharara was still the U.S. attorney in Manhattan. Bharara was fired in March when he refused to resign along with other federal prosecutors appointed before Donald Trump became president.

Giuliani and Mukasey said they also had spoken with unidentified U.S. officials about potentially settling the case on a “state-to-state basis.”

“Senior officials in both the U.S. government and the Turkish government remain receptive to pursuing the possibility of an agreement that could promote the security of the United States and resolve the issues in this case,” they wrote.

Turkey, they noted, “is situated in a part of the world strategically critical to the United States.”

Giuliani said further meetings or conversations with senior officials of the governments of the U.S. and Turkey were anticipated.

At a court hearing this month, Assistant U.S. Attorney Dennis Lockard expressed concern that the defense lawyers’ efforts were an attempt to make a political end-run around a judicial proceeding.

Giuliani and Mukasey defended their work, with Mukasey writing that their behind-the-scenes maneuvering was “entirely lawful and not at all unprecedented.”

The court papers, dated April 14, were filed after Berman asked questions about the role Giuliani and Mukasey were playing in Zarrab’s defense and who was paying for their representation. The lawyers said Zarrab was paying their fees.

The judge has noted that Giuliani’s law firm is a registered agent of Turkey, and both men work for firms that have represented banks in the case.

On Thursday, Bharara cited a story by The New York Times about the court filing in a tweet, saying: “One just hopes that the rule of law, and its independent enforcement, still matters in the United States and at the Department of Justice.”

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