Rudy Giuliani’s first big televised gig as a Trump attorney, a tragicomedy Wednesday night on Fox News, stirred my memories of the old New York Mets. You’ll see where I’m going with this.
On the very first play of the hapless 1963 season, Mets third baseman Charlie Neal snared a dribbler and promptly chucked the ball in the general vicinity of right field. First play, instant error. What a way to start the season. And so it went with Rudy, whose infamous motor mouth promptly made things worse for his lying client. Heck, he committed multiple errors.
Rudy, who’s long past his prime as the 9/11 mayor, whose political career was capped by a disastrous 2008 presidential bid (he spent $60 million and got one delegate), and who has never functioned as a high-profile defense lawyer, was so hilarious I could barely take notes. Trump hired Rudy because he loves a TV brawler, but it serves Trump ill if his brawler proceeds to implode in the friendliest studio space on earth.
At one point, amidst the string of softball queries from Michael Cohen client Sean Hannity, the Stormy Daniels affair surfaced in conversation. As you may recall, the White House line is that Trump knew nothing about Cohen’s hush money. When Trump was asked last month about whether he knew about the payment, he told the press: “No.” A month earlier, propaganda minister Sarah Huckabee Sanders said: “I’ve had conversations with the president about this … There was no knowledge of any payments from the president and he’s denied all of these allegations.” And Cohen has insisted that he paid the hush money from his own pocket without Trump’s knowledge.
Over to you, Rudy. Trump didn’t know anything about the payment, right?
Rudy: “He did know about the general arrangement … That was money that was paid by his lawyer, and the president reimbursed that over the period of several months … (Cohen) funneled it through a law firm, and then the president repaid it.”
As Homer Simpson would say, “D’oh!”
So, according to Rudy, not only did Trump know about the coverup payment on election eve, Trump ultimately financed the coverup — which potentially worsens his legal exposure, because he failed to disclose that campaign-related expenditure on the required disclosure forms. Thanks for telling us, Rudy!
And if anyone still believes that muzzling Stormy had nothing to do with the campaign, Rudy has set us straight. He surfaced Thursday morning on “Fox & Friends” to declare that, in fact, it was all about the campaign. I kid you not. Here’s what he said: “Imagine if that came out on October 15, 2016, in the middle of the last debate with Hillary Clinton.” Thanks for that too, Rudy!
Rudy is actually under no obligation to say anything about Stormy. He was hired to deal with Robert Mueller and the Russia probe; the Stormy-Cohen case is being handled (or mishandled) by a separate set of Trump lawyers. But Rudy loves to blab. It’s a way to make himself relevant, to show us that he’s in the know.
He did it again — to Trump’s detriment, again — when he brought up the firing of FBI director James Comey. The official White House line, long discredited, is that Trump fired Comey for allegedly mishandling the Hillary email investigation. But Rudy said something very different last night: “He fired Comey because (Comey) would not, among other things, say that (Trump) was not a target of the (Russia) investigation … So he fired him, and he said ‘I’m free of this guy.’ “
Translation: Comey, in the midst of an ongoing national security investigation, refused to peremptorily clear a potential future target of the investigation — thus prompting the potential target to fire him. Which sounds like a classic obstruction of justice. Thanks again, Rudy!
How bad was Giuliani? So bad that even Trump hack Laura Ingraham clanged the alarm on Fox News, appealing to the White House: “I love Rudy, but they better have an explanation.”
Well, they don’t. A Trump spokesman subsequently told Fox News: “We have nothing to say about it.”
What can they say? Here they are, claiming that Mueller and sore-loser Democrats and the Deep State are conspiring against Trump’s greatness … and they wind up getting screwed on the Hannity show by one of their own lawyers. How can they possibly spin their way out?
I guess this is what happens when you hire “the best people.”
Dick Polman is the national political columnist at WHYY in Philadelphia and a “Writer in Residence” at the University of Pennsylvania. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.