Rudy Giuliani embarked on another "chaotic media tour" Monday, and once again, "several veterans of the Trump campaign, like much of the viewing public, were left befuddled," The Daily Beast's Asawin Suebsaeng reported Monday night. Giuliani cast doubt on his client President Trump's longstanding denial of colluding with Russia in the 2016 election, arguing on CNN and Fox News that collusion isn't even a crime. Giuliani then seemed to disclose a third, previously unknown strategy meeting top Trump campaign officials allegedly held in June 2016, two days before Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner hosted Kremlin-linked Russians promising dirt on Hillary Clinton.
CNN's Anderson Cooper tried to sort out Team Trump's shifting goal posts and explanations Monday night:
In an interview Monday night, "Giuliani appeared to blame the maelstrom he kicked up on inquisitive New York Times reporters who he suggested had compelled him to proactively spin a potentially damaging story that may or may not actually be real," Suebsaeng said. He suggested his "incredibly confusing and potentially damaging" string of interviews helped shut down inquiries from Times reporter Maggie Haberman and others who'd reached out to ask about the alleged pre-Russia meeting planning session. (Haberman told The Daily Beast she's as confused as everyone else: "We don't talk about sourcing, and wouldn't now — but I have lost the thread of what the former mayor is talking about.")
As to the merits of Giuliani's comments, "'collusion is not a crime' is hardly a bulletproof defense," Vanity Fair's Abigail Tracy explains. "'Collusion' is really shorthand for variety of activities, some legal and some illegal." More to the point, "why Trump continues to allow Giuliani to do on-camera interviews, or to keep him as an attorney at all, is something of a mystery," she adds. "Nevertheless, his sudden reappearance on the media circuit — in nervy, pugnacious form — suggests the president, too, is on edge." Peter Weber
Melania Trump's office coldly slaps down Giuliani for saying she believes her husband, not Stormy Daniels
Rudy Giuliani's appearance at a Globes conference in Tel Aviv on Wednesday keeps making headlines, first with his suggesting that Kim Jong Un "begged" President Trump "on his hands and knees" to resuscitate their summit, then for his derogatory comments about Stormy Daniels, and finally for his assertion that first lady Melania Trump absolutely doesn't believe Daniels about the extramarital affair she had with Trump in 2006. Anderson Cooper played that part of Giuliani's comments on CNN Thursday night.
"Now, the first lady might have remained quiet about Mr. Giuliani saying she believes her husband and knows it's not true," Cooper said, "but instead this afternoon her communications director came out with a statement: 'I don't believe Mrs. Trump has ever discussed her thoughts on anything with Mr. Giuliani.'"
Dana Bash called that statement "so unusual." "I mean, Anderson, it's unusual for the first lady's office in any White House to put out a statement on anything of this nature, even if they were talking about a political foe," she said. "This is the first lady's office, as you said, slapping down the president, her husband's, attorney," and "she's basically saying to him, 'Cut it out,' but she's also sending a signal in a very carefully worded statement that maybe she doesn't believe her husband. And there's no question that she left it open to interpretation."
Cooper asked legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin what's going on with Giuliani. "Well, I really think this is a question for a psychiatrist more than a legal analyst," he said. "I mean, he's just sort of riffing out there," to the point where Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also slapped Giuliani down on Thursday for his dig at Kim. Toobin added that Trump probably likes Giuliani's televised theatrics, but "I don't think Robert Mueller's office cares a whit about this stuff he says on television." Peter Weber
Rudy Giuliani, the former federal prosecutor who became a celebrated two-time mayor of New York City, ran for president, and is now one of President Trump's lawyers, decided to celebrate his 74th birthday at Yankee Stadium on Monday. When they announced his birthday, the crowd booed.
— Muck Savage (@the_irishpsycho) May 28, 2018
As New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman notes, this is probably a dispiriting hometown welcome for not just Giuliani but also his famous and criticism-averse client, who owns some property in the city and presumably planned to retire there. Trump has options, though — maybe Miami Marlins fans are a bit less ... boisterous. Peter Weber
Rudy Giuliani claims Mueller says he will wrap up Trump investigation by September, with big caveats
On Sunday, Rudy Giuliani spoke to several news organizations to make the case that Special Counsel Robert Mueller had told him and other members of President Trump's legal team that he hopes to finish his report on whether Trump obstructed justice by Sept. 1. But that date is contingent upon a few things, most notably Trump agreeing to sit down for an interview with Mueller and his investigators. Mueller's office declined to comment.
"We said to them, 'If we're going to be interviewed in July, how much time until the report gets issued?'" Giuliani told The Associated Press on Sunday, "They said September, which is good for everyone, because no one wants this to drag into the midterms." He pointed to former FBI Director James Comey upending the 2016 election at Hillary Clinton's expense as a cautionary tale. Giuliani told AP the September report "would be the culmination of the investigation into the president." But he told The Wall Street Journal that the Sept. 1 end point had been conveyed "as a possibility" and said "we hope" the investigation ends at that point. In an interview with The Washington Post, Giuliani described Sept. 1 as "an incentive" to "do the interview."
In any case, The New York Times notes, "wrapping up the obstruction case would not signal the end of Mr. Mueller's work. That is one piece of his broader inquiry, a counterintelligence investigation into Russia's campaign to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and whether Trump associates coordinated with it. Counterintelligence investigations are used to gather information quietly about the activities of foreign powers and their agents — sometimes for years — and can result in criminal charges." Peter Weber
President Trump "is growing increasingly irritated with lawyer Rudy Giuliani's frequently off-message media blitz, in which he has muddied the waters on hush money paid to porn actress Stormy Daniels and made claims that could complicate the president's standing in the special counsel's Russia probe," The Associated Press reports. Trump has begun telling confidantes that maybe Giuliani should "be benched" from TV, at least temporarily, AP reports, citing two people familiar with Trump's thinking.
Trump has specifically "expressed annoyance that Giuliani's theatrics have breathed new life into the Daniels story and extended its lifespan," AP says, and Politico adds that Trump's "frustration that Giuliani's media appearances are raising more questions than they are answering" was "capped by the admission Sunday that the president may have made similar payments to other women." Additionally, "Trump has grown agitated in recent days by cable news replays of Giuliani's Wednesday interview with Sean Hannity," AP reports. "Trump snapped at both men in recent days, chiding Hannity for using the word 'funneled,' which he believes had illegal connotations."
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Monday that regarding Trump's views on Giuliani, "I didn't speak with him specifically about his feelings about it but certainly feels that he is an added member — added value, member to his outside special counsel." Right now, nobody in the West Wing is eager to step in with their serious concerns about Giuliani, Politico says, "but some aides said they expect the president to fire Giuliani if his behavior doesn't change."
That's a slip from grace for Giuliani, whose hiring Trump celebrated "last month by declaring that he had enlisted 'America's F---ing Mayor' as a legal attack dog with star power," AP says, citing one Trump confidante. "But many in the White House have begun evoking comparisons with Anthony Scaramucci — who, like Giuliani, was a hard-charging New Yorker with a knack for getting TV airtime." Scaramucci lasted 11 days. Peter Weber
The only thing that is clear after five days of Rudy Giuliani going on TV to explain what his client President Trump knew about the $130,000 hush payment to porn star Stormy Daniels and when "is how little has been cleared up," The Washington Post says. From his initial bombshell on Hannity that Trump had paid back the $130,000 to his lawyer, Michael Cohen, to his suggestion on Sunday that Cohen might have paid off other mistresses and the $130,000 was just a "nuisance payment," Giuliani has raised at least as many questions as he has answered.
He apparently doesn't see it that way. "We all feel pretty good that we've got everything kind of straightened out and we're setting the agenda," Giuliani told The Washington Post. He said he met with Trump at a golf club in northern Virginia on Sunday — Trump's 111th trip to a Trump golf course as president — to discuss legal strategy. "Everybody's reacting to us now, and I feel good about that because that's what I came in to do," Giuliani said. "We've made a deal this weekend: He stays focused on North Korea, Iran, and China, and we stay focused on the case and we'll bother him when we have to." (Trump has only one scheduled event on Monday, a national security briefing at 11 a.m.)
Some outside lawyers were baffled at Giuliani's assessment. Giuliani was "just erratic, unpredictable, aimless," Kathleen Clark, a law professor at Washington University, tells the Post. "I couldn't tell what he thought he was going to accomplish." "Ironically, Giuliani continues to think that he's covering the tracks of the president in the snow but he's actually walking around in cement," legal analyst Laura Coates said Monday on CNN's New Day, "and every single footprint is being followed by the investigators in Manhattan." Peter Weber
"Ironically, Giuliani continues to think that he's covering the tracks of the President in the snow but he's actually walking around in cement and every single footprint is being followed by the investigators in Manhattan" --@thelauracoates https://t.co/PGoWbVAxLE pic.twitter.com/P01ydLDgtJ
— New Day (@NewDay) May 7, 2018
Analysts, lawyers, and campaign finance experts are dissecting Rudy Giuliani's bombshell on Wednesday night's Hannity that his newest client, President Trump, paid back his lawyer Michael Cohen for Cohen's $130,000 pre-election hush agreement with porn star Stormy Daniels. But Giuliani also had a potentially problematic new explanation for why Trump fired FBI Director James Comey last year, when Comey was overseeing the investigation into Russian election meddling and possible Trump campaign collusion.
"He fired Comey because Comey would not, among other things, say that he wasn't a target in the investigation," Giuliani told Sean Hannity. "He's entitled to that. Hillary Clinton got that, and he couldn't get that. ... So he fired him, and he said, 'I'm free of this guy.'" Officially, Trump fired Comey because of how he handled the investigation into Clinton's use of a private email server, and Giuliani appears to be referencing Comey's statement clearing Clinton at the end of the FBI investigation. (The Trump-Russia investigation is still ongoing, now headed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.) Trump quickly told NBC's Lester Holt that he'd fired Comey because of the Russia investigation, and days later he told Russia's top diplomats behind closed doors in the Oval Office that Comey was a "real nut job" and firing him removed "great pressure because of Russia."
On MSNBC Wednesday night, Brian Williams played Giuliani's statement and then Trump's comment to Holt. "Everyone here loses credibility, both Trump and Giuliani, because they can't even keep their story internally consistent," former federal attorney Mimi Rocah said. "What Giuliani said is essentially some of the evidence that Mueller would be looking for, which is that Trump fired Comey because Comey wouldn't clear his name. That goes right to that question of intent with respect to obstruction." Trump's admission to Holt was "damaging," she added, "but Giuliani's was even more focused than that" and "rings even more of obstruction." Watch below. Peter Weber
Rudy Giuliani details Trump's Stormy Daniels repayment scheme, fails to clear him of campaign violations
After telling Fox News host Sean Hannity on Wednesday night that President Trump repaid his lawyer Michael Cohen for having quietly "funneled" $130,000 to porn star Stormy Daniels in October 2016 to secure her silence about a purported affair with Trump, Rudy Giuliani elaborated on the repayment scheme to various reporters, arguing that the details clear Trump of any campaign finance violations.
"Some time after the campaign is over, they set up a reimbursement, $35,000 a month, out of his personal family account," Giuliani, a new addition to Trump's legal team, told The New York Times. In total, Trump reimbursed Cohen $460,000 or $470,000 for the Daniels payment, which Cohen made "on his own authority," and other "incidental expenses," Giuliani said, adding that he was "not clear that" Trump knew about the Daniels payment at the the time.
Giuliani told The Washington Post that Cohen knew he would get paid back eventually. "There probably were other things of a personal nature that Michael took care of for which the president would have always trusted him as his lawyer," he said. Trump and he had discussed disclosing Trump's repaying Cohen, and "he was well aware that at some point when I saw the opportunity, I was going to get this over with," Giuliani added. He told The Wall Street Journal that Trump was "very pleased" with the Hannity interview, because "we finally got our side of the story."
The admission that Trump repaid Cohen "removes the campaign finance violation," Giuliani told the Times, but campaign finance experts disagreed. If Cohen paid Daniels without being reimbursed to protect Trump during the campaign, that would likely be an illegal campaign contribution; if Trump paid him back, it could be considered an unreported campaign loan; and "Giuliani suggesting it was funneled through the firm as legal fees," Larry Noble at the Campaign Legal Center tells the Post, "is evidence of an intent to hide the source, which could make it knowing and willful, which is criminal."