No one does Presidential Lawyering quite like Rudy Giuliani. The former mayor of New York, whose presence at Yankee games is no longer appreciated, attacked the credibility of another one-time Trumpian lawyer, Michael Cohen, last week. Except Giuliani used to praise Cohen's honesty, and earlier in the week had done some lying himself. He also suggested there could be worse tapes than the one Cohen made public, in which he and the now-president discussed the payoff of a Playboy model in mafia-adjacent language. Giuliani also assured us that actual mob tapes are worse. So there's that.
But today brought a new chapter in the Chronicles of Extreme Presidential Lawyering, as Rudy moved the goalposts in legendary fashion. Having contended forever that the president did not participate in any collusion with a hostile foreign power to sway a presidential election in his favor, Giuliani now declared that, forget all that, collusion isn't a crime!
WOW -- @RudyGiuliani begins @foxandfriends interview by downplaying the significance of collusion.- Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) July 30, 2018
"I have been sitting here looking in the federal code trying to find collusion as a crime. Collusion is not a crime." 👀 pic.twitter.com/fD1MdS6T29
This, of course, was the inevitable endpoint for Trump defenders should the investigation progress this far. The Slippery Slope of Excuses was predictable:
- There were no Trump campaign contacts with Russians.
- There were contacts, but there was no collusion.
- There might have been sketchy stuff happening, but the president wasn't involved.
- Collusion isn't a crime.
Soon, we can expect to hear that Actually, Collusion Is Good. That's collusion with agents of a hostile foreign power, mind you.
The new variable here is that Cohen has signaled his willingness to tell Special Counsel Robert Mueller under oath that Trump the Elder was informed in advance of the infamous Russian Rendezvous at Trump Tower, in which Don Jr. agreed to a meeting with a Kremlin-linked lawyer on the express condition she would provide dirt on Hillary Clinton. Giuliani sees an open goal, so the posts have got to move.
When later asked if Senior knew about the meeting, Giuliani wisely offered that “nobody can be sure of anything."
The not-even-a-crime shtick is the same tact taken by Congressman Dana Rohrabacker, the California Republican who is known to some as "Putin's favorite congressman," and whom Republican House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy once suggested in a closed-door setting was very close to the Kremlin indeed. “There’s not a person in this town who would not take a meeting to get material like that,” Rohrabacher told Mother Jones, referring to the Trump Tower meet-up. “I would.”
As a Law Expert, Giuliani also decided it was a good idea to divulge the (previously unknown?) detail that senior Trump campaign officials had a planning meeting in advance of the Russian Rendezvous:
This is going to be a pretty problematic admission for Rudes and Trump. I'll explain in a moment. pic.twitter.com/fQkeMjdXVa- Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) July 30, 2018
There's no indication this planning meeting was public knowledge before Giuliani brought it up on-air. That is, Rudy might've spilled the beans. This pre-meeting is a signal that the main meeting was not, as Junior and others first sought to portray it, some throwaway deal over "Russian adoption" that he wouldn't have deemed worthy of his father's attention. By this account, the meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya was a well-planned event that was ascribed significant importance. And crucially, Giuliani openly suggested that Rick Gates was at that meeting. That's the same Rick Gates who has flipped and is cooperating with the special counsel.
Josh Marshall of TPMalso got at another element:
The other point is the date: June 7th. That’s the date when Trump made that primary election night victory speech where he teased his upcoming anti-Hillary speech where he’d reveal a bunch of new dirt on Hillary, a speech that ended up never happening.
What Giuliani appears to be saying is that earlier that day the top people in Trump’s campaign had a planning meeting to prep for the dirt meeting with the Russians two days later. This is hardly surprising. But it lines up perfectly with what many have long suspected: that Trump was so excited about the dirt his campaign was going to receive from Russia two days later that he couldn’t help but brag about it in public that night.
Anyway, the fun could only last so long. Giuliani must have realized he left some more brain droppings on the various television sets he'd visited early this morning, for he called up Fox News later in the day to announce that Actually, I Meant to Say There Was No Planning Meeting!
Rudy: Take Two! I Meant to Say The Pre-Planning Meeting Did NOT Happen. pic.twitter.com/Zg87XYkwmG- Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) July 30, 2018
We don't know there was a meeting, says this professional lawyer, You know, the meeting I am outlining in excruciating detail.
Giuliani tried to pawn the meeting off as a Cohen creation through some convoluted diatribe about leaks and all the rest, but even the Fox hosts couldn't swallow it. Rudy deserves extra credit, though, for working in a reminder that Trump once said an Indiana-born judge of Mexican descent could not oversee his Trump University trial because he was "Mexican"-a sentiment even Paul Ryan was brave enough to call "textbook racism."
Take a listen to the rest of Rudy's mop-up appearance and see if you believe him-inasmuch as you can understand what the hell he's rambling about. He made sure in the follow-up to tick all the boxes: My client didn't collude, but just in case, collusion isn't a crime!
Here's part two of Rudy's walk back. pic.twitter.com/1WCpSaccvQ- Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) July 30, 2018
Here's part 3 of Rudy's walk back where Foxer basically says Rudes WTF are you talking about. pic.twitter.com/EgMpm8eiJd- Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) July 30, 2018
It appears that Giuliani has even lost the Fox hosts with his Extreme Presidential Lawyering. The only vaguely coherent parts of his story are ones that continually redraw a picture of shady meetings featuring the president's top brass, and re-ask the question of whether Trump knew about them. With lawyers like these, who needs a special counsel?
Related Video: The Cast of Collusion
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