THE NEW YORK TIMES – Rudolph W. Giuliani had always been hard to miss at the Grand Havana Room, a magnet for well-wishers and hangers-on at the Midtown cigar club that still treated him like the king of New York.
In recent years, many close to him feared, he was becoming even harder to miss.
For more than a decade, friends conceded grimly, Mr. Giuliani’s drinking had been a problem. And as he surged back to prominence during the presidency of Donald J. Trump, it was getting more difficult to hide it.
On some nights when Mr. Giuliani was overserved, an associate discreetly signaled the rest of the club, tipping back his empty hand in a drinking motion, out of the former mayor’s line of sight, in case others preferred to keep their distance.
“Some allies, watching Mr. Giuliani down Scotch before leaving for Fox News interviews, would slip away to find a television, clenching through his rickety defenses of Mr. Trump.”
Even at less rollicking venues — a book party, a Sept. 11 anniversary dinner, an intimate gathering at Mr. Giuliani’s own apartment — his consistent, conspicuous intoxication often startled his company.
“It’s no secret, nor do I do him any favors if I don’t mention that problem, because he has it,” said Andrew Stein, a former New York City Council president who has known Mr. Giuliani for decades. “It’s actually one of the saddest things I can think about in politics.”
No one close to Mr. Giuliani, 79, has suggested that drinking could excuse or explain away his present legal and personal disrepair.
He arrived for a mug shot in Georgia in August not over rowdy nightlife behavior or reckless cable interviews but for allegedly abusing the laws he defended aggressively as a federal prosecutor, subverting the democracy of a nation that once lionized him.
Yet to almost anyone in proximity, friends say, Mr. Giuliani’s drinking has been the pulsing drumbeat punctuating his descent — not the cause of his reputational collapse but the ubiquitous evidence, well before Election Day in 2020, that something was not right with the former president’s most incautious lieutenant.
Their entwined legal peril has turned a matter long whispered about by former City Hall aides, White House advisers and political socialites into an investigative subplot in an unprecedented case.