Tense Relationship Between Barr and Giuliani Complicates Trump Impeachment Defense

The president’s two highest-profile lawyers are struggling to get on the same page

WASHINGTON—Attorney General William Barr called President Trump in April with a question: What was Rudy Giuliani doing?

Mr. Trump had just avoided criminal charges with the release of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian electoral interference. But Mr. Giuliani was on television attacking former White House counsel Don McGahn, a longtime friend of the attorney general who had testified to investigators about some of the most notable incidents in the report, including Mr. Trump’s efforts to seek Mr. Mueller’s dismissal.

Why, Mr. Barr wanted to know, was the president’s private lawyer making a spectacle of himself rather than declaring victory in the Mueller investigation and moving on, according to a person who paraphrased the conversation. Mr. Barr wanted the president to tell Mr. Giuliani, in effect, to knock it off.

Five months later, Mr. Trump’s two highest-profile lawyers are again struggling to get on the same page, this time in the face of an impeachment inquiry launched by congressional Democrats last week. The president’s relationships with his private lawyer who once aspired to be his attorney general and the man who currently has that post are complicating White House efforts to build a legal and public-relations strategy to keep Mr. Trump in office.

Mr. Trump is receiving advice from two very different lawyers: Mr. Giuliani, who blankets the airwaves morning and evening with combative interviews and is prone to exaggeration; and Mr. Barr, a more measured figure but one who has drawn criticism for appearing overly close to Mr. Trump. As Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, Mr. Giuliani’s job is to defend the president; as attorney general, Mr. Barr’s is to defend the Justice Department and the institution of the presidency.

Yet Mr. Trump at times refers to the two men almost interchangeably. In a July call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in which Mr. Trump pressed his counterpart to investigate Democrat Joe Biden, Mr. Trump didn’t draw a distinction between the roles of Messrs. Giuliani and Barr, saying repeatedly that he would have both of them call to discuss the possible Biden investigation and other matters.

“When he was in private life, Trump was accustomed to having lawyers where he was the client, he would give directives and they’d do their best to fulfill his directives,” a former senior administration official said. “The government works a little bit differently. That was something he didn’t know, didn’t appreciate and I’m not sure if he’s ever fully come to terms with.”

Mr. Barr was surprised and angry to discover weeks later that the president had lumped him together with Mr. Giuliani on the phone call with Mr. Zelensky, according to a person familiar with the matter. The Justice Department said Mr. Trump never asked Mr. Barr to contact the Ukrainians.

House committees on Monday subpoenaed Mr. Giuliani for documents related to his efforts to pressure Ukraine to probe Mr. Biden. Mr. Giuliani didn’t respond to a question about whether he would comply.

Democrats have used the Trump-Zelensky phone call to raise questions about Mr. Barr’s own conduct. “I do think the attorney general has gone rogue,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) said Friday on CNN. “Since he was mentioned in all of this, it’s curious that he would be making decisions about how the complaint would be handled.”

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani arrives at a Trump rally in August in Manchester, N.H. PHOTO: ELISE AMENDOLA/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Some argued he should have recused himself from legal decisions surrounding a whistleblower complaint about Mr. Trump’s call with Mr. Zelensky and other matters which ultimately led House Democrats to launch a formal impeachment inquiry.

The Justice Department initially blocked the complaint from being turned over to Congress, advising the director of national intelligence in early September that it didn’t constitute an urgent concern that required reporting to the intelligence committees. Justice Department lawyers then said they didn’t find enough evidence to warrant opening a criminal investigation into possible campaign-finance violations.

Mr. Barr didn’t believe it was necessary to recuse himself from deliberations given that he didn’t know until later that the president had invoked his name on the call, but nonetheless didn’t oversee the review, an official said.

In the days since House Democrats opened an impeachment inquiry, Mr. Giuliani has been a near-constant fixture on TV, declaring himself a whistleblower and confirming he would deliver a paid speech at a Kremlin-backed conference, only to reverse himself hours later. Mr. Barr, in contrast, departed for Italy for a previously scheduled trip and hasn’t spoken publicly.

On Monday, a Justice Department official said Mr. Barr had asked the president to make introductions in several countries that may have information relevant to a federal probe into the origins of the Mueller investigation, which Mr. Trump has repeatedly decried as a “witch hunt.”

One such introduction was to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, whom Mr. Trump recently called at Mr. Barr’s request, two government officials said. The FBI opened its counterintelligence investigation in July 2016 after the Australian government tipped off the U.S. that another foreign-policy adviser to the Trump campaign appeared to have foreknowledge of the release of hacked material by Russia.

Despite legal careers that intersected under Mr. Trump, people close to Mr. Barr say he and Mr. Giuliani have never been close and that he is privately mystified by what many in conservative legal circles view as Mr. Giuliani’s meddling in matters that should be handled by officials in government. Mr. Barr has privately told associates that he believes Mr. Giuliani’s behavior in general isn’t helpful to the administration.

Mr. Trump likes and respects Mr. Giuliani but his perception of him is “cyclical” and varies depending on the day, a person close to the president said. The president so far appears to appreciate Mr. Giuliani’s very public defense of their Ukraine strategy. On Wednesday, speaking at the United Nations, Mr. Trump called Mr. Giuliani a “great lawyer” and said: “I’ve watched the passion that he’s had on television over the last few days. I think it’s incredible the way he’s done.”

The only person that likes Rudy on TV right now is Trump,” said another person close to the president, adding that Mr. Trump “likes people who get on TV and fight for him.”

Mr. Giuliani said he hasn’t heard of any frustrations with him. Asked about criticism of his attacks on Mr. McGahn, he said in an interview that he wasn’t aware of Mr. Barr’s concerns. “Maybe he should notice that McGahn hasn’t testified,” Mr. Giulani said, referring to a subpoena for Mr. McGahn’s testimony from a House committee investigating Mr. Trump’s efforts to curtail the Mueller investigation. “I love when people Monday morning quarterback what you decide as a lawyer.”

Since joining the president’s legal team in April 2018, Mr. Giuliani has developed a reputation for combative TV interviews in which he has made stunning admissions—such as declaring last May that the president had reimbursed his former lawyer for a 2016 payment to a porn star—and has repeatedly had to walk back incorrect statements, such as his assertion in January that negotiations for a Trump Tower in Moscow had continued through Election Day. Mr. Barr, in contrast, is blunt yet more careful in his public statements.

Mr. Giuliani has known the president for decades, but bolstered his standing with Mr. Trump with his loyal support of his campaign in 2016. Mr. Trump didn’t always return the favor. He often needled the former mayor for falling asleep on long flights, and joked about whether Mr. Giuliani was looking at cartoons on his iPad, a former aide said.

Key Moments From Rough Transcript of Trump's Call With Ukraine

Key Moments From Rough Transcript of Trump’s Call With Ukraine
A call record released by the White House shows President Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to “look into” former Vice President Joe Biden and his son. WSJ reads the key moments from the rough transcript of the call.

Mr. Trump also berated Mr. Giuliani in front of others at the wedding of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in 2017. The president complained that Mr. Giuliani was spitting while he was talking and ordered him to stand elsewhere, the aide said.

After the release of the “Access Hollywood” tape weeks before the election in which Mr. Trump was captured making lewd comments about women, few advisers were willing to go on the Sunday talk shows to defend the candidate. Mr. Giuliani taped all five shows—after which Mr. Trump attacked him for his performance. “Man, Rudy, you sucked. You were weak. Low energy,” the candidate told him, according to a book by two former campaign aides, Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie.

Mr. Giuliani rarely complained about such treatment, jockeying with other aides and advisers to sit next to Mr. Trump at dinner or on the plane. “Rudy never wanted to be left out,” one former aide said. “If you were ever between Rudy and the president, look out. You were going to get trampled.”

After the election, Mr. Giuliani was eager for an administration post—foremost, that of attorney general. He didn’t get it.

Yet Mr. Trump valued his loyalty. In staff meetings at the White House, the president would pre-empt complaints about Mr. Giuliani’s behavior on television by interrupting and making clear that he appreciated how hard the former mayor was fighting for him.

“Everyone shuts up after that,” a White House aide said.

Mr. Trump didn’t know Mr. Barr well before tapping him as the country’s top prosecutor on the recommendation of his legal advisers. Their relationship grew stronger during the final stages of the Mueller investigation, an administration official said, adding that Mr. Trump was pleased with the way his attorney general handled the end of the probe. In the months since, Mr. Trump has often privately praised Mr. Barr, and the two speak regularly.

Mr. Barr unrolled the Mueller team’s findings in a way that favored Mr. Trump, prompting criticism that he appeared overly interested in defending the president and risked the Justice Department’s independence from the White House. It was Mr. Barr who determined, along with then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, that Mr. Trump hadn’t obstructed justice, after Mr. Mueller opted not to make a decision on that matter, citing a Justice Department policy barring the indictment of sitting presidents.

Mr. Barr served as attorney general under the first Bush administration and later became executive vice president and general counsel of a telecommunications company and a private lawyer before Mr. Trump tapped him as attorney general in December. Mr. Giuliani, too, was a high-ranking Justice Department official and Manhattan’s top prosecutor in the late 1980s, but had left that post by the time Mr. Barr became attorney general under George H.W. Bush.

In an interview for an oral history of the Bush presidency in 2001, Mr. Barr, who served as attorney general from 1991 to 1993, alluded to Mr. Giuliani’s reputation for charting his own path. Mr. Barr said the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office was the hardest to coordinate with, but favorably compared his U.S. attorney there to Mr. Giuliani, who held that post until 1989.

“My New York guy wasn’t Rudy Giuliani,” Mr. Barr said of Otto Obermaier, the Manhattan U.S. attorney until 1993. “He wasn’t that independent, but he basically ignored 50 percent of what I said.”

Pompeo Took Part in Ukraine Call, Official Says

Secretary of State listened in on July 25 Trump-Zelensky contact that is center of impeachment inquiry

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was among the administration officials who listened in on the July 25 phone call between President Trump and Ukraine’s president, a senior State Department official said Monday, a disclosure that ties the State Department more closely to the House impeachment inquiry.

Mr. Pompeo’s participation on the call, which hadn’t been previously reported, was one of several developments related to the controversy that centers on Mr. Trump’s repeated urging that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky cooperate with Rudy Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal attorney, and Attorney General William Barr on investigations into Mr. Trump’s political opponents, including Democratic rival Joe Biden.

Rudy Giuliani, personal lawyer to President Trump, also has been subpoenaed by House committees in the Ukrainian matter. PHOTO: FLORION GOGA/REUTERS

Also Monday, House committees subpoenaed Mr. Giuliani to turn over documents related to his communications with Trump administration officials about his efforts in Ukraine, as well as any other documents related to that effort, by Oct. 15. They said the subpoena was formally part of the impeachment inquiry. Mr. Giuliani said on Twitter that the subpoena “will be given appropriate consideration,” noting that the subpoena was “signed only by Democrat Chairs who have prejudged this case.”

The impeachment inquiry is focused on Mr. Trump’s dealings with Ukraine. Lawmakers are focusing on a whistleblower complaint by a person identified as an officer at the Central Intelligence Agency and a record of the call between the two presidents that was released by the administration. If the Democrats approve articles of impeachment, the matter would move to trial in the Senate, which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell confirmed Monday he would hold.

“I would have no choice but to take it up,” the Kentucky Republican said on CNBC. He added: “How long you are on it is a different matter, but I would have no choice but to take it up based on a Senate rule on impeachment.”

The scrutiny of the call with Ukraine—which came at a time when Mr. Trump had ordered U.S. aid to Ukraine put on hold—has prompted a wider examination of efforts by the Trump administration to engage foreign leaders in assisting with issues important to the president.

Key Moments From Rough Transcript of Trump's Call With Ukraine

Key Moments From Rough Transcript of Trump’s Call With Ukraine

Mr. Barr has asked Mr. Trump to make introductions to a number of foreign officials he believes may have information relevant to the Justice Department’s review of the origins of the Russia investigation and has held overseas meetings with some of them, a Justice Department official said Monday. Mr. Trump recently called Australia’s prime minister at Mr. Barr’s request, two government officials said, to ask him to help with the inquiry.

Mr. Barr in May tapped John Durham, the top federal prosecutor in Connecticut, to lead the review. It focuses on the counterintelligence investigation that became special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian election meddling. Since then, Mr. Durham has been exploring what role if any various countries including Ukraine played in the counterintelligence probe. The Justice Department has revealed that “certain Ukrainians who are not members of the government” had volunteered information to Mr. Durham.

The department official wouldn’t say from which other countries Mr. Barr is seeking information. The attorney general was in Italy last week speaking to government officials in connection with Mr. Durham’s review.

The official described Mr. Barr’s request that Mr. Trump speak to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison as standard, saying “It is typical protocol for one leader to contact another leader” for such a request.

“The Australian government has always been ready to assist and cooperate with efforts that help shed further light on the matters under investigation,” according to a statement from the Australian government. “The PM confirmed this readiness once again in conversation with the president.”

In a May 28 letter to Mr. Barr, the Australian ambassador to Washington offered to help with the examination of the Russian inquiry, saying “we stand ready to provide you with all relevant information to support your inquiries.”

White House spokesman Hogan Gidley on Monday said: “The DOJ simply requested that the President provide introductions to facilitate that ongoing inquiry, and he did so, that’s all.”

Mr. Trump and his Republican congressional allies have long alleged that his associates were unfairly targeted for surveillance, and that investigators in the Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation were politically prejudiced against Mr. Trump in a way that could have affected their work. Mr. Trump has said he believes Mr. Durham’s review will show crimes were committed by his political opponents.

Four Takeaways From the Whistleblower Complaint

Four Takeaways From the Whistleblower Complaint
A whistleblower complaint released Thursday alleges President Trump sought to use the powers of his office to coerce Ukraine to investigate a political rival. WSJ’s Gerald F. Seib examines four key takeaways from the report. Photo: JIM LO SCALZO/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Mr. Pompeo was scheduled to depart for a European trip later Monday. He said last week that he hadn’t yet read the whistleblower’s complaint in its entirety, but said that to his knowledge, actions by State Department officials had been “entirely appropriate and consistent” with administration efforts to improve relations with Ukraine.

In those comments, during the United Nations General Assembly meeting, he didn’t mention his own participation in the call, but said the complaint was filed by “someone who had secondhand knowledge.”

Several days earlier, Mr. Pompeo said that he opposed releasing the record of the Trump-Zelensky call. He told “Fox News Sunday” in a Sept. 22 interview that he would defer to the White House on whether to do so.

“Those are private conversations between world leaders, and it’s not often that those are released,” he said in the interview. And when they’re [released], it’s done when the White House deems it appropriate.” Mr. Pompeo dismissed a question about details of the call, saying, “There’s a lot going on in the world.”

Three House committees—Foreign Affairs, Intelligence and Oversight — on Friday subpoenaed Mr. Pompeo for documents related to the inquiry; he has until Oct. 4 to produce them.

The committees plan to depose former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch ; U.S. special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker ; Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs George Kent; counselor Ulrich Brechbuhl ; and U.S. Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland.

Mr. Volker resigned his post last week. Mr. Sondland said he planned to attend the deposition. The State Department did not respond to questions about plans by other officials who were asked to appear.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said his administration wouldn’t release a transcript of the July phone call with President Trump. PHOTO: SERGEI SUPINSKY/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

In Ukraine, Mr. Zelensky said Monday that his administration wouldn’t release a transcript of the July phone call with Mr. Trump, while also saying he is open to investigating any alleged violation of Ukrainian law.

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS

Does Mike Pompeo’s involvement change your view on President Trump’s call with Ukraine? Why or why not?

President Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is at the center of an impeachment inquiry in the House of Representatives. PHOTO: ERIN SCOTT/REUTERS

At the White House on Monday afternoon, Mr. Trump told reporters: “We’re trying to find out about a whistleblower.” He didn’t expand on that, and the White House didn’t immediately respond to a question about the comment.

Mr. Trump has said he deserved to confront the whistleblower and anyone who provided him information and has suggested they are spies who committed treasonous acts. House Democrats are eager to hear testimony from the whistleblower—though in a way that will protect his identity.

Shortly after Mr. Trump’s comment, Andrew P. Bakaj, a lawyer who represents the whistleblower, wrote on Twitter: “The Intel Community Whistleblower is entitled to anonymity. Law and policy support this and the individual is not to be retaliated against. Doing so is a violation of federal law.

The Republican-led Senate is considered unlikely to convict Mr. Trump in any impeachment trial. Removing the president requires approval by two-thirds of the 100-member Senate.

Some Senate Republicans have voiced concern over the allegations outlined in a whistleblower complaint made public last week, but none has voiced support for impeachment.

Republicans Don’t Believe in Democracy

Do Democrats understand what they’re facing?

Item: Last week Republicans in the North Carolina House used the occasion of 9/11 to call a surprise votepassing a budget bill with a supermajority to override the Democratic governor’s veto. They were able to do this only because most Democrats were absent, some of them attending commemorative events; the Democratic leader had advised members that they didn’t need to be present because, he says, he was assured there would be no votes that morning.

Item: Also last week, Representative Adam Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, issued a subpoena to the acting director of national intelligence, who has refused to turn over a whistle-blower complaint that the intelligence community’s inspector general found credible and of “urgent concern.” We don’t know what the whistle-blower was warning about, but we do know that the law is clear: Such complaints must be referred to Congress, no exceptions allowed.

On the surface, these stories may seem to be about very different things. The fight in North Carolina is basically about the G.O.P.’s determination to deny health care to low-income Americans; the governor had threatened to veto any budget that didn’t expand Medicaid. The whistle-blower affair probably involves malfeasance by high government officials, quite possibly President Trump, that in some way threatens national security.

What the stories have in common, however, is that they illustrate contempt for democracy and constitutional government. Elections are supposed to have consequences, conveying power to the winners. But when Democrats win an election, the modern G.O.P. does its best to negate the results, flouting norms and, if necessary, the law to carry on as if the voters hadn’t spoken.

Similarly, last year America’s voters chose to give Democrats control of the House of Representatives. This still leaves Democrats without the ability to pass legislation, since Republicans control the Senate and the White House. But the House, by law, has important additional powers — the right to be informed of what’s going on in the executive branch, such as complaints by whistle-blowers, and the right to issue subpoenas demanding information relevant to governing.

The Trump administration, however, has evidently decided that none of that matters. So what if Democrats demand information they’re legally entitled to? So what if they issue subpoenas? After all, law enforcement has to be carried out by the Justice Department — and under William Barr, Justice has effectively become just another arm of the G.O.P.

This is the context in which you want to think about the latest round of revelations about Brett Kavanaugh.

First of all, we now know that the F.B.I., essentially at Republican direction, severely limited its investigation into Kavanaugh’s past. So Kavanaugh was appointed to a powerful, lifetime position without a true vetting.

Second, both Kavanaugh’s background and the circumstances of his appointment suggest that Mitch McConnell went to unprecedented lengths to create a Republican bloc on the Supreme Court that will thwart anything and everything Democrats try to accomplish, even if they do manage to take both Congress and the White House. In particular, as The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent notes, it seems extremely likely that this court will block any meaningful action on climate change.

What can Democrats do about this situation? They need to win elections, but all too often that won’t be sufficient, because they confront a Republican Party that at a basic level doesn’t accept their right to govern, never mind what the voters say. So winning isn’t enough; they also have to be prepared for that confrontation.

And surely the first step is recognizing the problem exists. Which brings me to the Democratic presidential primary race.

The leading candidates for the Democratic nomination differ considerably in both their personalities and their policy proposals, but these pale beside their differences from Donald Trump and his party. All of them are decent human beings; all would, if given the chance, move America in a notably more progressive direction.

The real chasm between the candidates is, instead, in the extent to which they get it — that is, the extent to which they understand what they’re facing in the modern G.O.P.

The big problem with Joe Biden, still the front-runner, is that he obviously doesn’t get it. He’s made it clear on many occasions that he considers Trump an aberration and believes that he could have productive, amicable relations with Republicans once Trump is gone.

Which raises the question: Even if Biden can win, is he too oblivious to govern effectively?

Daniel Pantaleo, N.Y.P.D. Officer in Eric Garner’s Death, Should Be Fired, Judge Says

Five years after Eric Garner’s death in police custody ignited a national outcry, a police administrative judge recommended on Friday that the officer who placed him in a chokehold during the botched arrest should be fired.

The finding sets in motion the final stage of a long legal and political battle over the fate of the officer, Daniel Pantaleo, who has become for many critics of the New York Police Department an emblem of what they see as overly aggressive policing in black and Hispanic neighborhoods.

How to handle Officer Pantaleo has been a political minefield for both Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill — who now must decide whether to fire him and incur the wrath of police unions — and Mayor Bill de Blasio, who for years has expressed solidarity with the Garner family while avoiding saying whether Officer Pantaleo should remain on the force.

For the police, Mr. Garner’s death was a watershed moment, forcing a reckoning over how the department engaged with its residents. Across the country, his last words — “I can’t breathe” — became a battle cry for the Black Lives Matter movement, and led to sweeping changes in use-of-force policies.

But Officer Pantaleo’s continued employment has shadowed Mr. de Blasio, dogging him as he embarked on a run for president as a progressive Democrat. The mayor, who ran on a platform of police reform, has worked to reduce incarceration, cutting the number of arrests for minor crimes, but he has also labored to avoid alienating rank-and-file officers.

His unwillingness to call for Officer Pantaleo’s dismissal came up at the Democrat’s national debate on Wednesday night when he was criticized by his fellow New Yorker, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and by protesters shouting “Fire Pantaleo.”

On Friday, Mr. de Blasio said the Garner family had waited too long for action and had been failed by federal and state law enforcement prosecutors. But he again declined to say whether he believed Officer Pantaleo should be fired.

“Today, we finally saw a step toward justice and accountability,” Mr. de Blasio said. “We saw a process that was actually fair and impartial, and I hope this will now bring the Garner family a sense of closure and the beginning of some peace.”

Under the City Charter and court rulings, Mr. O’Neill has the final say over whether Officer Pantaleo will be dismissed and lose his pension. Prosecutors and the defense typically have up to two weeks to respond to the findings of the judge, Rosemarie Maldonado, a deputy police commissioner who oversees disciplinary hearings.

Mr. O’Neill could decide to uphold, modify or reverse her findings, which were confirmed by two people familiar with the decision. The officer could also resign ahead of a decision.

In recent weeks, Mr. O’Neill has found himself caught between elected officials and community leaders who have been calling for the officer to be fired and leaders of police unions who have cast Officer Pantaleo as a scapegoat.

The Garner family called on Mr. O’Neill to dismiss the officer immediately. “This has been a long battle,” Mr. Garner’s daughter, Emerald Snipes Garner, said at a news conference in Manhattan with the Rev. Al Sharpton. “And finally, somebody has said that there’s some information that this cop has done something wrong.”

But the president of the Police Benevolent Association, Patrick J. Lynch, warned that the commissioner and the mayor would lose the support of officers if the decision was made to terminate Officer Pantaleo. “This decision is pure insanity,” he said in a statement. “If it is allowed to stand it will paralyze the N.Y.P.D. for years to come.

A Police Department spokesman said Mr. O’Neill had yet to receive a copy of the judge’s report and would not make a decision until later this month, after lawyers for both sides have a chance to comment on the conclusions. Mr. O’Neill did suspend Officer Pantaleo on Friday.

“All of New York City understandably seeks closure to this difficult chapter in our city’s history,” the spokesman, Phillip Walzak, said. “Premature statements or judgments before the process is complete however cannot and will not be made.”

The judge’s recommendation comes two weeks after Attorney General William P. Barr announced that the Justice Department would not seek a federal indictment against the officer on civil rights charges, ending five years of internal debate among federal prosecutors.

Though Mr. de Blasio is not allowed to directly fire a police officer, he can influence the decision because the police commissioner serves at his pleasure. Mr. de Blasio has said he cannot publicly express an opinion on Officer Pantaleo’s status because it could be seen as an attempt to influence the department’s decision, exposing the city to a lawsuit.

Mr. Lynch, the union president, said the mayor had already exerted that influence with his remarks on the presidential debate stage. “We have a mayor who predetermined the outcome,” he said. “He said the family will get justice. Of course that family’s justice is finding a police officer guilty and firing them.”

Officer Pantaleo was captured on video using a chokehold on Mr. Garner in 2014 as he and other officers subdued him. Mr. Garner was believed to be illegally selling loose cigarettes. A city medical examiner determined that the chokehold set in motion a “lethal cascade” of events, including an asthma attack and a fatal heart attack.

[The Pantaleo case has shadowed Mr. de Blasio on the presidential campaign trail.]

Officer Pantaleo’s lawyer, Stuart London, said the judge had ignored the evidence and bowed to outside political pressure. He said Officer Pantaleo was disappointed but would continue to fight to keep his job. “This case was won in that courtroom,” Mr. London said. He added that, “Politics trumped, unfortunately, the rule of law.”

In the 47-page decision, dated Friday, Ms. Maldonado

Five years after Eric Garner’s death in police custody ignited a national outcry, a police administrative judge recommended on Friday that the officer who placed him in a chokehold during the botched arrest should be fired.

The finding sets in motion the final stage of a long legal and political battle over the fate of the officer, Daniel Pantaleo, who has become for many critics of the New York Police Department an emblem of what they see as overly aggressive policing in black and Hispanic neighborhoods.

How to handle Officer Pantaleo has been a political minefield for both Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill — who now must decide whether to fire him and incur the wrath of police unions — and Mayor Bill de Blasio, who for years has expressed solidarity with the Garner family while avoiding saying whether Officer Pantaleo should remain on the force.

For the police, Mr. Garner’s death was a watershed moment, forcing a reckoning over how the department engaged with its residents. Across the country, his last words — “I can’t breathe” — became a battle cry for the Black Lives Matter movement, and led to sweeping changes in use-of-force policies.

But Officer Pantaleo’s continued employment has shadowed Mr. de Blasio, dogging him as he embarked on a run for president as a progressive Democrat. The mayor, who ran on a platform of police reform, has worked to reduce incarceration, cutting the number of arrests for minor crimes, but he has also labored to avoid alienating rank-and-file officers.

His unwillingness to call for Officer Pantaleo’s dismissal came up at the Democrat’s national debate on Wednesday night when he was criticized by his fellow New Yorker, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and by protesters shouting “Fire Pantaleo.”

On Friday, Mr. de Blasio said the Garner family had waited too long for action and had been failed by federal and state law enforcement prosecutors. But he again declined to say whether he believed Officer Pantaleo should be fired.

“Today, we finally saw a step toward justice and accountability,” Mr. de Blasio said. “We saw a process that was actually fair and impartial, and I hope this will now bring the Garner family a sense of closure and the beginning of some peace.”

Under the City Charter and court rulings, Mr. O’Neill has the final say over whether Officer Pantaleo will be dismissed and lose his pension. Prosecutors and the defense typically have up to two weeks to respond to the findings of the judge, Rosemarie Maldonado, a deputy police commissioner who oversees disciplinary hearings.

Mr. O’Neill could decide to uphold, modify or reverse her findings, which were confirmed by two people familiar with the decision. The officer could also resign ahead of a decision.

In recent weeks, Mr. O’Neill has found himself caught between elected officials and community leaders who have been calling for the officer to be fired and leaders of police unions who have cast Officer Pantaleo as a scapegoat.

The Garner family called on Mr. O’Neill to dismiss the officer immediately. “This has been a long battle,” Mr. Garner’s daughter, Emerald Snipes Garner, said at a news conference in Manhattan with the Rev. Al Sharpton. “And finally, somebody has said that there’s some information that this cop has done something wrong.”

But the president of the Police Benevolent Association, Patrick J. Lynch, warned that the commissioner and the mayor would lose the support of officers if the decision was made to terminate Officer Pantaleo. “This decision is pure insanity,” he said in a statement. “If it is allowed to stand it will paralyze the N.Y.P.D. for years to come.”

A Police Department spokesman said Mr. O’Neill had yet to receive a copy of the judge’s report and would not make a decision until later this month, after lawyers for both sides have a chance to comment on the conclusions. Mr. O’Neill did suspend Officer Pantaleo on Friday.

“All of New York City understandably seeks closure to this difficult chapter in our city’s history,” the spokesman, Phillip Walzak, said. “Premature statements or judgments before the process is complete however cannot and will not be made.”

The judge’s recommendation comes two weeks after Attorney General William P. Barr announced that the Justice Department would not seek a federal indictment against the officer on civil rights charges, ending five years of internal debate among federal prosecutors.

Though Mr. de Blasio is not allowed to directly fire a police officer, he can influence the decision because the police commissioner serves at his pleasure. Mr. de Blasio has said he cannot publicly express an opinion on Officer Pantaleo’s status because it could be seen as an attempt to influence the department’s decision, exposing the city to a lawsuit.

Mr. Lynch, the union president, said the mayor had already exerted that influence with his remarks on the presidential debate stage. “We have a mayor who predetermined the outcome,” he said. “He said the family will get justice. Of course that family’s justice is finding a police officer guilty and firing them.”

Officer Pantaleo was captured on video using a chokehold on Mr. Garner in 2014 as he and other officers subdued him. Mr. Garner was believed to be illegally selling loose cigarettes. A city medical examiner determined that the chokehold set in motion a “lethal cascade” of events, including an asthma attack and a fatal heart attack.

Officer Pantaleo’s lawyer, Stuart London, said the judge had ignored the evidence and bowed to outside political pressure. He said Officer Pantaleo was disappointed but would continue to fight to keep his job. “This case was won in that courtroom,” Mr. London said. He added that, “Politics trumped, unfortunately, the rule of law.”

Still, the judge cleared Officer Pantaleo of one charge against him: She found that he had not intentionally restricted Mr. Garner’s breathing.

Fred Davie, the chairman of the Civilian Complaint Review Board, an independent agency which acted as prosecutors at the disciplinary hearing, said the judge had vindicated the board’s long-held position that Officer Pantaleo had caused Mr. Garner’s death. “Commissioner O’Neill must uphold this verdict and dismiss Pantaleo from the department,” Mr. Davie said in a statement.

The chokehold was captured in bystanders’ videos of Mr. Garner’s July 17 arrest published by The New York Daily News.

One shows Officer Pantaleo’s arms gripping Mr. Garner’s upper body and quickly sliding up to his neck as the two stumbled to the ground. Mr. Garner repeated “I can’t breathe” 11 times as officers pressed him onto the sidewalk.

Both a grand jury on Staten Island and the Department of Justice declined to bring criminal charges against Officer Pantaleo. Federal prosecutors determined that Officer Pantaleo had used a chokehold, but they could not agree on whether they could prove it was intentional.

In the last two weeks, Mr. Garner’s relatives, backed by many of the city’s elected officials, have threatened to shut down the city if the de Blasio administration did not fire Officer Pantaleo.

On Friday, Mr. Garner’s family and their supporters said even Officer Pantaleo’s dismissal would not satisfy them, and they remain convinced Officer Pantaleo should have faced criminal charges in state or federal court. “Make no mistake about it, this is not justice for the Garner family,” the Rev. Sharpton said.

Mr. Garner’s mother, Gwenn Carr, also called on the commissioner to fire other officers involved in the arrest, including Officer Pantaleo’s partner, Justin Damico, and Lt. Christopher Bannon, who supervised the two officers and said in text messages that Mr. Garner’s death was “not a big deal.”

Police union lawyers argued at the disciplinary hearing that Officer Pantaleo had used an authorized takedown tactic to subdue Mr. Garner, who they said was resisting a lawful arrest.

Prosecutors from the Civilian Complaint Review Board, a city agency that investigates police misconduct accusations, presented evidence that Officer Pantaleo performed a takedown technique that he had not been trained to use.

When it went wrong, instead of letting go, he clasped his hands to secure his grip around Mr. Garner’s neck, they said.

The prosecutors, Suzanne O’Hare and Jonathan Fogel, said that Mr. Garner was trying to talk the officers out of arresting him, just as he had done two weeks earlier with Officer Damico.

Mr. Davie said the evidence prosecutors had brought forward at the departmental trial “was more than sufficient to prove Pantaleo unfit to serve.”