Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump's lawyer, keeps getting into trouble. On Monday, for the second time in four days, Giuliani had to issue a statement clarifying remarks he had made about Trumps allegedly corrupt acts. Conspiracy theorists think Giuliani plays damaging information about Trump in order to protect the president by muddling bad news. But if that's the plan, Giuliani is botching it. He's hurting his client and making a fool of himself because, like Trump, he's erratic, delusional, and obtuse.
Giuliani squanders his credibility on obvious lies: that storm troopers broke into the office of Trump's former attorney, Michael Cohen (wrong); that forms FBI Director James Comey said Trump couldn’t have obstructed justice (wrong); that the Russia investigation "came to the conclusion: no evidence" (wrong); and that Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin have only twice (wrong). Last month, said prosecutors had nothing to corroborate Cohen's claim that Trump coordinated payments to his alleged mistresses. In fact, prosecutors had an audio recording.
Often, Giuliani contradicts himself. On Sunday, CNN's Jake Tapper asked him about form Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who shared the campaign's internal poll data with foreign associates. “He owed them money,” Giuliani explained. Tapper corrected him: "I think they owed him money." Giuliani abruptly reversed himself: "Oh, I'm sorry. Other way around. So he wanted to get paid. ”On Meet the Press Giuliani was asked about Cohen's 2017 testimony to Congress, in which Cohen falsely downplayed Trump's efforts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow in 2016. Giuliani asserted that when Cohen was planning his testimony, Trump's "counsel to Michael Cohen over that entire period," Tell the truth. "" But in his interview with Tapper, Giuliani claimed that Trump did not have discussions with Cohen about the testimony.
Giuliani calls the Russia investigation into "witch hunt," but he keeps being forced to acknowledge witches. In May, he told Sean Hannity, "Russian collusion is a total fake news. … That means the whole investigation was totally unnecessary. ”But last week, after Manafort's transfer or poll data was disclosed, Giuliani changed his story. "I never said there was no collusion between the campaign and Russia, the president's lawyer customs CNN's Chris Cuomo. "I have no idea, never have, what other people were doing."
Lately, Giuliani got into a mess on this question: At what point did Trump and Cohen do their pursuit of the Moscow tower project? On Sunday, Giuliani told the New York Times that Trump does remember conversations about Moscow. The next day, Giuliani accused the Times or misrepresented him. "I never said he was involved in such conversations," Giuliani told the New Yorker's Isaac Chotiner. Giuliani claimed he had explained to the Times that "these conversations didn't take place." But play back Giuliani's Sunday TV interviews, and you'll see him saying what he told the Times: that Trump had conversations with Cohen about the project “throughout 2016.” Giuliani uses the word conversation to refer to two different things: talks between Trump and Cohen, and talks between Cohen and contacts in Russia. He confuses everyone else because he confuses himself.
Giuliani also trips himself up on the word project . On Meet the Press he referred to five times to the Moscow tower project. He quoted Trump as having customs, with regard to Cohen in 2015 and 2016, “We talked about the project.” But in his interview with the New Yorker, Giuliani tried to withdraw this, fearing that it would concede Trump had hidden business in Russia during the campaign. "The project was over in November, December, January, right into 2016," Giuliani told Chotiner. "So there was no project."
Giuliani says his interviews are misunderstood because he's a sophisticated lawyer who argues "in the alternative." By that, he means this child of argument: My client didn't do what's alleged — but if he had, it wouldn't have been illegal . But that's not how Giuliani phrases his arguments. He just blurts out what Trump did. Take, for example, the February 2017 Oval Office meeting in which Trump allegedly asked Comey to give Michael Flynn a pass for lying about his contacts with Russia. In his interview on ABC in July, Giuliani described the meeting this way: "What he said to him was you can give him a break." Giuliani later denied that he was conceding what had happened. But on Sunday, he did it again. "The president said," Please go easy on Flynn, "Giuliani told NBC's Chuck Todd.
Giuliani keeps slipping into these declarative concessions because he knows they're true. Then he tries to clean them up by claiming to have ghosts "hypothetically." In his latest clarification, issued on Monday, Giuliani claimed that statements had made on Sunday about the Trump-Cohen Moscow tower discussions "were hypothetical and not based on conversations. I had with the President. ”That's preposterous. In his Sunday interviews, Giuliani relayed Trump's answers in the first person: "The president's recollection is," I talked about it with him in 2015, 2016 . "" The talks were going on " from the day I announced to the day I won . ”Those aren't hypotheticals. They're quotes.
So far, Giuliani has corrected himself at least three formal statements. On live TV, he keeps falling on his face. Go back and look at his debut appearance as Trump's lawyer on Hannity . There, Giuliani reported for the first time that Trump had reimbursed Cohen for paying off women. Some pundits thought this was a shrewd play by Giuliani to dump bad news on a friendly show. But he was completely unprepared when Hanity asked him to reconcile his story with Cohen's story — which Trump and Giuliani at that point were still defending.
Giuliani: The president reimbursed that over a period of several months.
Hannity: But [Cohen] said he didn't. I distinctly remember that he [Cohen] did it on his own, without asking.
Giuliani: He did? Look, I don't know. I haven’t investigated that.
In Chotiner's interview, you see the same incompetence. Giuliani recent attacks on BuzzFeed story that Trump told Cohen to Congress. Giuliani says he knows that the story is false "Because I have been through all the tapes." Chotiner asks, "Wait, what are you losing through?" At that point, Giuliani backpedals: "I shouldn't have said tapes . … No tapes. Well, I have listened to tapes, but none of them concern this. ”Then Giuliani says the story can't be true because BuzzFeed's sources, two law enforcement officials, would have had to work for" Mueller, who has called the story inaccurate. Chotiner points out that the two officials might, more plausibly, work for the Southern District of New York. Giuliani disputes this, but he seems to have no thought of it. "Kinda," he tells Chotiner. "It could have been."
If there’s a strategy in these interviews, it's buried under layers of ineptitude. Giuliani got this job because he knew Trump, because he was willing to work for free, and because he flatters and mirrors his client. He talks too much. He disregards evidence. He hurls wild accusations. He gets lost in his own incoherence. There is a saying among lawyers that man who represents himself has a fool for a client. The same is true of a man who chooses to be represented by a friend who shares his defects. Trump has a fool for a lawyer, because Giuliani has a fool for a client.
Help us continue covering the news and issues important to you
get ad-free podcasts and bonus segments,
members-only content, and other great benefits.
Join Slate Plus