Let’s give everyone the benefit of the doubt and agree that Rudy Giuliani’s bombshell pronouncements to Sean Hannity were actually part of a plan.
What else could it be?
The redoubtable Robert Costa of The Washington Post tweets that White House aides were “bewildered” watching Giuliani tell Sean Hannity that Trump himself had paid back Michael Cohen for the Stormy Daniels hush money. They were similarly stunned to watch Giuliani admit to Hannity that the reason Trump fired Jim Comey was because the then-FBI director wouldn’t publicly say that Trump was not a target of the investigation.
Assuming this was a plan, it was one so tightly held that they didn’t even let the toady Hannity in on it. Hannity was, as one observer rightly pointed out, entirely gobsmacked by the entire interview. It was so tightly held that you have to wonder whether Trump was even in on it.
Like the rest of us, Hannity couldn’t believe what he was hearing — which was Giuliani conceding that Trump had lied about Comey and Stormy and Cohen and, we are left to presume, probably everything else. OK, we already knew that, but now we know that.
If you accept that it was a plan, what was the purpose? It couldn’t have been just to bury the bizarre story about Trump’s doctor saying Trump aides raided his office, which had to be embarrassing for Trump but which basically sounded like a Peter Sellers movie plot. The smart people explain that Trump was under such political and possible-criminal heat that he desperately needed another story. And maybe the truth, or at least another stab at the truth, was what was required.
So, Giuliani-tells-Hannity is the perfect way to do this.
Whatever he’s saying and wherever he’s saying it — Giuliani also predictably told Hannity that both Hillary Clinton and Jim Comey should be in jail — Giuliani is always unabashed and unembarrassed. Hannity, meanwhile, is dependably credulous and would, as Michael Cohen once said, take a bullet — at least a figurative one, possibly on 5th Avenue — for Trump, meaning there would be no examination of the implications of Giuliani’s attempt at offhandedly delivering all that explosive news.
I was taken in. It looked to me as if Giuliani had gone off the rails because, let’s face it, he’s fully capable of doing that. As I might have tweeted myself, maybe Trump should have paid Rudy the hush money.
But then you start putting it together. Rudy tells us of the “stormtrooper” raid of Cohen’s papers — yeah, the FBI-agents-as-Nazis meme — and we have to understand what the raid must have yielded. We can imagine that Cohen’s papers would show that Trump had paid him back for the hush money, meaning that Cohen had lied and that Trump — who would have you believe his lawyer paid out the $130,000 hush money to Stormy and that he repaid the lawyer for the hush money to Stormy without him knowing anything about Stormy — had lied.
The failure to report the Cohen hush money — which must be reported if he used it to help the campaign, and why else would Cohen have shut Daniels up just before the election? — would be a campaign finance violation. Those lawyers who don’t work for Trump are saying that Trump’s failure to report the Cohen money is still a violation whether Trump paid back what amounts to a loan. According to Giuliani, he paid back the $130,000 with hundreds of thousands of dollars to spare, which leads us to wonder who else was being paid off. The finance violation is not a huge thing in and of itself, unless, of course, someone lied about it to the wrong people. Which may be why Trump won’t be talking to Robert Mueller.
Then there’s the Comey issue. One of the issues Mueller is apparently exploring is whether Trump’s firing of Comey amounted to obstruction of justice. We remember that the White House’s first explanation was that Comey was fired for having treated Hillary Clinton unfairly. Funny, right? Michelle Wolf wouldn’t have had the nerve to make that joke. So, not long after, Trump told NBC’s Lester Holt the firing was about the “Russia thing,” which left Trump admitting he fired Comey to get him off his back about the Russia probe. Obstruction, right?
To resolve the obstruction angle, Giuliani says Trump fired Comey out of, well, personal pique because Comey had refused to publicly let Trump off the hook.
Here’s Rudy: “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.’”
That’s their story. Or their latest one. He fired Comey because he’s “free of this guy,” which may not the best way to end the obstruction story, but it’s apparently the best they could come up with.
But my favorite part of the Rudy affair came Thursday morning, the day after, with Giuliani’s appearance on – where else? — Fox and Friends, during which he tried to clean up the reasoning behind why the Stormy Daniels hush money shouldn’t be considered a campaign contribution.
“If we had to defend this as not being a campaign contribution, I think we could do that,” Giuliani said. “This was for personal reasons. The president had been hurt personally, not politically, personally so much and the first lady by the false allegations.”
So, this wasn’t about politics?
Well, here’s what he said moments later: “However, imagine if that came out on October 15, 2016, in the middle of the last debate with Hillary Clinton. Cohen didn’t even ask. Cohen made it go away. He did his job.”
So, this was about politics?
As Giuliani said, Cohen did his job. And as now seems clear, Giuliani, as Trump’s new lawyer, was trying to do his. When he wasn’t explaining away all of Trump’s lies, he was explaining why Trump probably wouldn’t sit down to answer Mueller’s questions.
“What they’re trying to do is trap him into perjury,” Giuliani said, “and we’re not suckers.”
They don’t think they’re suckers. But do you ever get the feeling that they’re pretty sure the rest of us are?