There is an ongoing investigation on Rudy Giuliani over his alleged acting as an unregistered foreign agent.

The Foreign Agents Registration Act requires people who engage in certain activities to register at DOJ, and I'm trying to understand why hadn't he registered in the first place?

It would not harm: Giuliani is known to have clientele from across the globe. Whether or not his actions constitute a Foreign Lobbyism is up to the court, but wouldn't proactive action help him avoid any accusations?

They had plenty of time: talks suggesting Giuliani to register have circulated for years.

The registration would be smooth: considering the Trump administration's firm control over the DOJ throughout his presidency, I believe such registration could be fast and smooth.

Others did so: it is known that Manafort registered as foreign agent in 2017.

So is there another reason why Giuliani didn't register that I might have missed?

  • 3
    I don't think this question can be answered unless you can read Giuliani's mind.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Apr 29, 2021 at 16:12
  • While the specifics of Giulani's motivations are hard to know unless he went on the record, Danila's answer is pretty good on the generalities that motivate actors in that class of decisions and it is interesting to know of these motivations. Vote to reopen. Commented Apr 30, 2021 at 16:11

2 Answers 2


Most likely, it's not registration that's a problem, it's the responsibilities it entails.

According to USA DoJ FAQ on FARA, a registered foreign agent is to keep all of the records on their activities for the whole term they are acting as a foreign agent (and for three years after they stop acting as one), and to have these records readily available to an inspection by officials. Moreover, they have to mention that they are a registered foreign agent in any informational releases they want to make available to general public. First requirement requires costly infrastructure (which may or may not be needed otherwise), second is an impact (magnitude of which may or may not be noticeable) on the reputation of the organisation or individual in question. Combination of these reasons lead to the fact that the majority of people whom this Act concerns try to avoid registration as much as possible - for example, Manafort, whom you mentioned in your question, only registered retroactively as a result of a major scandal.

To sum it up: in general, people who might be required to register according to FARA feel much different to your "it will not hurt" bullet point. Giuliani does not act different from majority here.

  • 2
    As well, isn't Giuliani a politician? I have to imagine that being a registered foreign agent would hurt any future electability.
    – CGCampbell
    Commented Apr 29, 2021 at 14:16
  • 3
    @CGCampbell His only elected office was as mayor of NYC, which ended 20 years ago. So, not really? He seems content to grift Commented Apr 29, 2021 at 15:09
  • 1
    My bad in that I didn't even look up my own info here. It's really been that long now? Man, I feel old. Thanks Azor, for keeping me honest.
    – CGCampbell
    Commented Apr 29, 2021 at 17:21
  • @AzorAhai-him- Yes but that doesn't mean he won't decide to run again in the future which would make the issue important for him. No to mention it would have caused him and Trump no end of troubles while he was working with the Trump admin.
    – Joe W
    Commented Apr 29, 2021 at 19:01
  • Giuliani does not act different from majority. The 2 examples cited by the OP were Republicans. Have Democrats also been reluctant to register in the past? Commented Apr 30, 2021 at 16:13

The Emoluments Clause of the US Constitution is usually interpreted to mean that political leaders should be free from (corrupting) influences of foreign nations. US political leaders should first and foremost be responsive to US citizens and US states; a leader who is beholden to or overly connected with a foreign nation might be prone to betray the US Constitution and nation. This was part of the basis for establishing the 'foreign agent' statutes: to be aware and have transparency when a foreign nation is trying to influence US policy and US politicians through someone unassociated with a foreign embassy. Foreign agents are asked to keep meticulous records and documentation to ensure they are not bribing, blackmailing, coercing, or otherwise suborning US officials into doing a foreign nation's bidding.

There are a number of possible reasons why Giuliani did not register as a foreign agent, up to and including the possibility that he just didn't realize he had to. But the most likely explanation is that Trump and his administration were deeply secretive (even by presidential standards), and did not wish to reveal anything about their inner workings, motivations, or tactics. If Giuliani (or Manafort, or Flynn, or etc.) registered overtly as foreign agents it would put broad ranges of their work and communication into the open, including communications directly with Trump. There would (for instance) have been no need to subpoena Giuliani's records or raid his home for electronic devices, because all of that information would already be in the hands of the FBI and other interested parties. Trump would not have wanted anyone to register as a foreign agent, even if their actions were completely innocuous, because it would have opened the inner workings of the Trump administration to public scrutiny.

Of course, we can't overlook the cabal mentality of the Trump administration. In most administrations the president would have either insisted underlings register or pushed such underlings out of the inner circle, out of fear that the accusation of harboring a foreign agent would be catastrophic. The Trump administration, by contrast, fostered the impression that loyalty would bring protection. That mob 'wise guy' attitude that "nobody can touch us if nobody talks" was the rule of the day in Trump's inner circle. That bit of arrogance may be coming back to haunt Giuliani now...


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