The day after President Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani unexpectedly admitted on cable news that his client had reimbursed Trump lawyer Michael Cohen for the payout to Stormy Daniels, he was roundly criticized for having gone off the reservation and compromising the White House. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
In fact, Giuliani, a bare-knuckles brawler in the rings of both politics and litigation, was laying down a marker. The former New York mayor is sending a clear message to Special Counsel Robert Mueller: It’s been more than a year; show your cards. Put up or shut up.
Giuliani was showing his cards when he explained that Trump had personally covered the $130,000 payout to Daniels. Cohen was on retainer, and apparently empowered to take care of these kinds of situations without telling Trump, thereby insulating his boss. This might not be pretty, or the kind of thing a Mitt Romney would do, but it’s not illegal.
Journalists howled that Giuliani had gotten in front of the White House, that the comms team was blindsided by his revelation. But he was only getting out in front of the truth, and maybe he didn’t tell the White House staff because he didn’t want it to leak before he had a chance to tell the story first. Maybe he wanted this to be an explanation, not an admission.
Did Trump Lie on Air Force One?
A criticism of Giuliani’s revelation, which he offered without even being asked about it, is that it proves Trump lied on Air Force One when he said he didn’t know anything about the payment to Daniels. But the facts don’t bear this out. According to his attorney, Trump knew nothing of the payout at the time it was paid, and even while repaying it was not aware exactly what Cohen had fixed. Giuliani says Trump only found out he paid for the Stormy silence 10 days to two weeks ago.
This didn’t stop the news media from insisting that Trump had been caught in a lie, and that doddering old man Giuliani had skipped the sunset special at the old folks’ home to inadvertently throw his client under the bus. But let’s take a step back. Giuliani knew Trump had personally repaid Cohen. He knew this would come out. He put it out first and took control of the narrative. That’s not doddering, it’s good lawyering.
It’s Mueller Time
Somewhat lost in the Sean Hannity interview where Rudy spilled the beans was his offer to have the president sit down with Mueller for two to three hours to answer questions within a limited scope. The message from Giuliani, which he made clear when he joined the president’s legal team, is that it’s been more than a year and we need some answers.
Just about an hour before Giuliani broke the news cycle, former Trump campaign official Michael Caputo was on cable news recounting his experience being interviewed by the Mueller team. He said something interesting. He said the Mueller investigation knows more about the Trump campaign than anyone who worked on it. This is telling.
If the Mueller investigation, which the White House has cooperated with, has every bit of information regarding the campaign, what more does it need to tell the American people if collusion with Russia took place? This is the question Giuliani is asking. He is even offering that his client, the president of the United States is willing to sit down and clear things up. It’s a good question, and one the American people should be asking: When will Mueller tell us what he knows?
Rudy Plays Offense
Throughout his career, as a prosecutor who brought down the mob, as a politician who transformed the city of New York, and now as the president’s attorney, Giuliani has played offense. He’s chosen his own ground to fight on and winked at his opponents and detractors, begging them to take the first shot. Come at me is his mantra. It’s no surprise President Trump finds solace in his counsel.
The message to Mueller could not be clearer: What do you got? And it is asked with a New York swagger that perhaps only Rudy has perfected more completely than Trump. Giuliani is convinced that the Mueller investigation has nothing on his client. It may indict Russians, it may find that Paul Manafort engaged in shady business practices, it might find that James Comey bravely broke the law, but on Trump it has nothing.
That’s the bet. It’s the marker Rudy is laying down. He says Mueller has bubkis, and he’s offering the special counsel a way out, offering an off-ramp to a constitutional crisis. Mueller can seek a subpoena and compel the president to testify under oath with no constraints. He might win; he might lose. But if he has evidence of collusion, why not take the offered opportunity to confront Trump about that evidence? Why not take the offer Giuliani is giving?
When Giuliani joined the president’s legal team, his goal was clear. It was to get the investigation finished as soon as possible. It’s an estimable goal. If the president of the United States colluded with Russia to steal an election, we need to know about it, and we need to know about it now. If he didn’t, then we need to remove the cloud from an administration in the midst of careful and dangerous dealings in places like Iran and North Korea.
Giuliani is going all-in. All the chips are on the table, and the cards are ready to be flipped. What hand does Mueller have? Most Americans would like to see his cards. Public support for the Mueller investigation is declining, according to the polls, so the time is now. Let’s see your cards, Mr. Mueller. Rudy has laid his on the table. The American people deserve to see yours.