By now, we ought to recognize the playbook at work: Donald Trump, American president, and his many honorable associates will yell that a potentially damaging story is FAKE NEWS! Then, investigators in Congress or at our country's premier newspapers will continue digging up evidence indicating that it is, in fact, true. And then, just as the investigation nears a breakthrough, when it will be revealed that the president has committed perhaps yet another impeachable offense and lied relentlessly about it, they send out the Rude Boi.
We saw it when suddenly, Rudy Giuliani announced the new Trumpworld line: "There's nothing wrong with taking information from the Russians." Previously, they denied any contacts with any Russians whatsoever! We saw it when the timeline on which Trump was trying to build a Trump Tower Moscow suddenly extended through Trump's entire campaign to be the American president. Previously, they denied there were any plans for a Trump Tower Moscow! And we're seeing it all again now.
Yes, the man once known as America's Mayor has a new edict these days. Giuliani is billed as Donald Trump's "lawyer," but he's really the designated obfuscator. Whenever things start to look bad, they send him out on cable news—the most reliable vehicle to transmit insane bullshit into the public discourse—to rant and rave like, as my colleague Charles P. Pierce might say, a guy who's stayed too long at the fair. And Giuliani probably has stayed too long at the fair, still hoping that someone will pat him on the head and pin a Beloved American Patriot Award on his lapel. But what he's doing is very much on purpose.
Behold Thursday night's spectacle, in its entirety.
Watch Giulani as he goes on batshit tangential rants about "Whitey Bulger's nephew" and struggles to recite Eastern Bloc names. He yells about media bias. He accuses Trump's political opponents—usually Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden—of the exact offense(s) for which his "client" is under investigation. He gets off petty jabs that The Boss will enjoy watching, like, "Joe Biden, who's probably working with half the IQ you and I have." But most importantly, he admits that Trump did the thing—sometimes, possibly, a crime—that Trump has publicly denied doing for months.
The intent of this is to defuse the landmine ahead. The president learned long ago that corruption and criminality don't have the same effect when they occur out in the open, or are at least openly acknowledged by the perpetrator. People understood Nixon's crimes as such because he operated in the shadows, and investigators brought them to light. It was clear that shady shit was happening. But when the shady shit happens in broad daylight—like, say, when the president meddles in and obstructs an investigation into himself in public forums—it doesn't have the same effect. It does not compute for people because of the sheer shamelessness. Who would do crimes while everyone's watching?
Giuliani is preparing the ground for the next stage of this, when, as Chris Hayes put it, Trump and his cronies say, "Yeah, we did it. So what?" Suddenly, the shady thing is out in the open, the perpetrators readily admit they did it while rattling off conspiracy theories about how their opponents did similar things, and the public at large struggles to grasp just what exactly happened. Then, the next day, the president starts ranting about how windmills cause cancer again and we all move on.
But let's just zero in on what Giuliani said here:
Rudy denying he asked Ukraine to investigate Biden followed by Rudy admitting he asked Ukraine to investigate Biden within 30 seconds of each other in this clip is just incredible to watch pic.twitter.com/Vx1fTrEz8Q— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) September 20, 2019
They asked a foreign government to investigate a political opponent. We learned this week that Trump made a "promise" to the leader of that foreign government in a phone call that somebody found so objectionable they filed to be a whistleblower through the official channels. Did the president offer the Ukrainians something in exchange for their potential ratfucking of Biden? Does it have anything to do with the military aid the administration has been holding back from Ukraine, meant to help with its battles against Russia? That would indicate a quid pro quo: ratfuck my opponent and you'll get your money to defend your sovereignty. Giuliani seemed to be preemptively offering a defense for that on Twitter.
A President telling a Pres-elect of a well known corrupt country he better investigate corruption that affects US is doing his job. Maybe if Obama did that the Biden Family wouldn’t have bilked millions from Ukraine and billions from China; being covered up by a Corrupt Media.— Rudy Giuliani (@RudyGiuliani) September 20, 2019
The truly insane part of all this is there may be some legitimate questions about Biden's son, Hunter, and his activities abroad. But the Trumpists just could not resist colluding with a foreign power to get some dirt—again. The president makes decisions with the national interest in mind—and you can forget things like "values" or "ethics"—only when it happens to coincide with what benefits him. And Giuliani is his crazed rodeo clown, taking the sting out of things when the bull starts to buck and Trump finds himself in real danger.
"It is sad to watch what happened to you," Giuliani had the nerve to tell Chris Cuomo. "It's sad. You're a total sellout." Cuomo—and CNN in general—really ought to reflect on their role as a frequent conduit for Giuliani's preemptive spin whenever Trump is about to get exposed again, a phenomenon they struggle to prevent in the cable-news format, where guests are largely free to spew misinformation. But Cuomo seemed to hint in response that it was Giuliani who'd disgraced himself, having fallen so far from his America's Mayor perch. This operates on the premise that Giuliani was ever a man of worth, rather than a leader in crisis who was graded on a curve.
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