Rudolph W. Giuliani told a grand jury that his former chief investigator remembered having briefed him on some aspects of Bernard B. Kerik‘s relationship with a company suspected of ties to organized crime before Mr. Kerik’s appointment as New York City police commissioner, according to court records.
Mr. Giuliani, testifying last year under oath before a Bronx grand jury investigating Mr. Kerik, said he had no memory of the briefing, but he did not dispute that it had taken place, according to a transcript of his testimony.
Mr. Giuliani’s testimony amounts to a significantly new version of what information was probably before him in the summer of 2000 as he was debating Mr. Kerik’s appointment as the city’s top law enforcement officer. Mr. Giuliani had previously said that he had never been told of Mr. Kerik’s entanglement with the company before promoting him to the police job or later supporting his failed bid to be the nation’s homeland security secretary.
In his testimony, given in April 2006, Mr. Giuliani indicated that he must have simply forgotten that he had been briefed on one or more occasions as part of the background investigation of Mr. Kerik before his appointment to the police post.
He said he learned only in late 2004 that the briefing or briefings had occurred, after the city’s investigation commissioner reviewed his own records from 2000. To this day, Mr. Giuliani testified, he has no specific recollection of any briefing or the details of what he was told. But he said he felt comforted because the chief investigator had cleared Mr. Kerik to be promoted.
“He testified fully and cooperatively,” a statement from Mr. Giuliani’s consulting firm said of the former mayor’s grand jury appearance. The statement added: “Mayor Giuliani has admitted it was a mistake to recommend Bernie Kerik for D.H.S. and he has assumed responsibility for it.”
Mr. Kerik pleaded guilty last summer to improperly allowing the company, Interstate Industrial Corporation, or its subsidiaries, to do $165,000 worth of free renovations on his Bronx apartment in late 1999 and 2000. The company has denied paying for the work, and has disputed any association with organized crime. But the two brothers who run it have been indicted in the Bronx on charges they lied under oath about their dealings with Mr. Kerik.
There is no evidence that Mr. Giuliani knew about the apartment renovation before promoting Mr. Kerik to police commissioner. But the top investigator who briefed Mr. Giuliani in 2000, the transcript shows, was aware that Mr. Kerik’s brother and a close friend had been hired by an affiliate of the company, which for years had been struggling to secure a city license.
For Mr. Giuliani, who is seeking the Republican nomination for president and who has done well in early polls, his history with Mr. Kerik looms as a likely issue in the campaign. His own aides have anticipated that questions are likely to arise about Mr. Giuliani’s judgment in, among other things, promoting Mr. Kerik for one of the country’s most important national security posts.
Now, Mr. Giuliani, whose private company provides background checks for companies as part of its services, may have to explain his response to the information that was provided to him in 2000.
His company’s statement yesterday said that Mr. Giuliani was not concerned that issues surrounding Mr. Kerik would become a liability to his presidential campaign.
The transcript of Mr. Giuliani’s testimony was not given to The New York Times by any rival campaign.
In his testimony, Mr. Giuliani suggests he might have been presented with only limited information about Mr. Kerik’s issues. And he said the city investigators who did the background check on Mr. Kerik ultimately cleared him to be hired as police commissioner.
Mr. Giuliani testified that the background investigators’ approval might explain why he, and aides who were involved, could not recollect any briefing, according to the 101-page transcript of his April 20, 2006, testimony.
“We may have filed it away somewhere that it wasn’t as significant,” Mr. Giuliani testified. Mr. Giuliani said Edward J. Kuriansky, the commissioner of the city’s Department of Investigation, had also forgotten about the briefings until he checked his records days after Mr. Kerik’s withdrawal from consideration as homeland security secretary in late 2004.
Mr. Kuriansky did not return phone calls seeking his account of what he remembered telling Mr. Giuliani.
According to the grand jury transcript, a prosecutor for the Bronx district attorney’s office told Mr. Giuliani that Mr. Kuriansky and his investigators had compiled a considerable body of knowledge about Mr. Kerik’s relationship with the company before his August 2000 appointment as police commissioner.
Mr. Kerik, who was then the city’s commissioner of correction, had himself come forward months earlier to tell the investigators that the company had recently given jobs to his brother, Donald, as well as the best man from his wedding, Lawrence Ray, and that he himself had interceded on the company’s behalf as it sought a city license, the prosecutor told Mr. Giuliani.
Mr. Kerik even told the investigators that his friend Mr. Ray had recently been indicted on federal criminal charges, along with Edward Garafola, a reputed Gambino soldier, the brother-in-law of Salvatore Gravano, the former underboss known as Sammy the Bull.
An Interstate affiliate was at that time seeking a license to operate a waste transfer station on Staten Island. City officials refused to license the transfer station because of the organized crime allegations, which stemmed in part from the fact that the transfer station was bought in 1996 from two organized crime figures.
Interstate is a construction company based in New Jersey that undertakes large public and private projects in the metropolitan area.
The company has long denied the accusation of mob ties, and New Jersey regulators issued a license to the company in 2004, allowing it to do construction work on Atlantic City casinos, after a lengthy review of the same material. That license was suspended after the owners were charged with perjury last summer.
By 2000, Mr. Kerik had known or worked for Mr. Giuliani for close to a decade. Mr. Kerik first came to know Mr. Giuliani when he provided security during his second mayoral campaign. Mr. Giuliani later became godfather to two of Mr. Kerik’s children and promoted him to lead the Correction Department. Mr. Kerik was one of two candidates Mr. Giuliani seriously considered to succeed Howard Safir as police commissioner as Mr. Giuliani neared the final year of his administration.
Mr. Kerik served in that post for 16 months, and was at Mr. Giuliani’s side on the morning of Sept. 11 when the World Trade Center collapsed.
In their questioning of Mr. Giuliani last April, Bronx prosecutors sought repeatedly to determine how much the mayor remembered being told about Mr. Kerik’s problems, and what, if anything, he had done about the information.
Throughout his questioning, Mr. Giuliani said he remembered close to nothing about what he had been told about the broader background investigation of Mr. Kerik or what he had done after hearing it. He testified that he remembered being told something about Mr. Kerik’s experience as a security consultant in Saudi Arabia, but little else.
He testified, as well, that he could not remember if he had ever discussed the issues with Mr. Kerik directly.
At one point, a senior Bronx prosecutor, Stephen R. Bookin, asked Mr. Giuliani, “As you sit here today, your testimony is, and correct me if I am wrong, that you don’t recall ever being told that a close friend of your correction commissioner had been indicted in a federal case?”
Mr. Giuliani responded: “I don’t recall that until 2004. I can’t tell you that it wasn’t, but I don’t – I don’t – I don’t remember.”
The prosecutor also explored whether Mr. Giuliani would find it odd that the city’s top investigator, with whom he met almost daily, would not have fully shared what appeared to be rather alarming information with him.
“Do you know of any reason why Mr. Kuriansky, who met with you every day that you were in town, part of your core group as you put it, would not have briefed you on these facts?” the prosecutors asked.
Mr. Giuliani, in the end, replied that the facts about Mr. Kerik might not have been presented to him in as much detail and with as much emphasis back in 2000.
The prosecutor then asked Mr. Giuliani whether, if the information had been presented to him with as much emphasis, he would have appointed Mr. Kerik police commissioner.
“If he told it to me the way you described it to me, no,” Mr. Giuliani replied. “If he had told it to me in a different way because, maybe he didn’t know all of the facts, or had come to a different conclusion about the facts, then maybe I would have – I can’t tell you that.”
Mr. Giuliani was a key backer of Mr. Kerik when President Bush nominated him to be homeland security secretary in December 2004. Mr. Kerik withdrew his name a week later, citing possible tax and immigration problems involving his family’s nanny.
Several newspapers at the time were already pursuing stories about his relationship with Interstate, which were published in the succeeding days. It is unclear to what extent Mr. Kerik’s relationship with the company was made clear to the White House before his nomination.
But Mr. Giuliani testified that Mr. Kerik had assured him that he had briefed presidential aides about the matter.
Mr. Kerik also assured him, Mr. Giuliani testified, that there was no reason for concern when questions later arose as to whether Interstate had paid for the renovations to his apartment.
“He told me that Interstate didn’t do the work, that another company had done it legitimately, that he had the checks to show he paid for it,” Mr. Giuliani said.
Mr. Giuliani testified that he took Mr. Kerik’s word for it and did not ask to see the canceled checks.
Last year, when Mr. Kerik admitted in court that the renovations had actually been largely underwritten by Interstate or its subsidiaries, Mr. Giuliani released a statement that displayed no irritation at having been misled.
“Bernard Kerik has acknowledged his violations,” the statement said, “but this should be evaluated in light of his service to the United States of America and the city of New York.”