Giuliani: Is there a method to this madness?
Once again, President Trump has proven his “genius for picking the worst possible person for any job,” said Gail Collins in The New York Times. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, just hired as Trump’s lawyer and leading spokesman, last week took to the airwaves to defend Trump—and wound up making his client look like a liar. First, Giuliani told visibly stunned Fox News host Sean Hannity that Trump did indeed reimburse Michael Cohen, his self-described “fixer,” for that $130,000 in hush money paid to porn star Stormy Daniels. Up to that moment, Trump and the White House had vehemently denied knowing of the payment to Daniels, let alone reimbursing Cohen for it. Then, on Fox & Friends, Giuliani praised the political timing of Cohen’s hush payment, saying, “Imagine if [the Daniels story] came out on Oct. 15, 2016, in the middle of the last debate with Hillary Clinton!” The clear implication that Trump had an election-related motive for the secret payoff to Daniels—which contradicts the president’s claim that he was just trying to protect his family from embarrassment—exposes both Cohen and Trump to charges of violating campaign-finance law. Finally, said Heather Digby Parton in Salon.com, Giuliani told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that it’s possible other women got a Cohen-brokered payoff from Trump. This is Trump’s lawyer talking? “Let’s just say, Rudy isn’t helping.”
“Giuliani’s other big admission may be even worse,” said Greg Sargent in WashingtonPost.com. In his Hannity interview, Giuliani stated that Trump fired FBI Director James Comey in 2017 “because Comey would not, among other things, say that [Trump] was not a target of the [Russia] investigation.” Pressuring an investigator to exonerate a suspect falls well within the boundaries of obstruction of justice—and Giuliani just admitted on national television that his client did just that. Little wonder that Trump later distanced himself from all of Giuliani’s comments—“Rudy has just started…he’ll get his facts straight.”
In Giuliani’s defense, said Rich Lowry in NationalReview.com, the “problem here isn’t the counselor, but the client.” Critics have mentioned Giuliani’s age (74), and speculated about cognitive decline, but what lawyer could explain away Trump’s ever-changing statements about his actions? The president sure does change his mind a lot, said Jonathan Lemire in the Associated Press, and he may already be changing his mind about Giuliani. Insiders say Trump was initially pleased by his old friend’s theatrical TV performances, but then realized his admissions were generating negative headlines and breathing “new life into the Daniels story.” The president has suggested to aides that Giuliani be “benched” if he keeps setting new fires.
There is madness in Giuliani’s incoherent defense of Trump, said Eugene Robinson in The Washington Post, “but there is also method.” Giuliani is actually following the Trump playbook: “Confuse, distract, provoke,” and overwhelm people’s faculties with so many lies, obfuscations, and contradictions that “nobody can be sure what’s real and what’s not.” This is a political, not legal, strategy. Like Trump, Giuliani has always believed in “waging total war against political enemies,” said John Podhoretz in the New York Post. Yes, Rudy’s made some unforced errors, but the former federal prosecutor’s core message was that the Russia probe is a “totally garbage investigation” which should be shut down. That’s why Trump may have hired Giuliani: to lay the groundwork for firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and/or special counsel Robert Mueller. “It could be a long, hot summer.”