Among the figures most maligned by the mainstream news media during the Robert Mueller investigation was Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani. The former New York mayor was called doddering and senile, a once-great man throwing away his rich legacy at the feet of a doomed and corrupt presidency. Now that the Mueller investigation has cleared Donald Trump of collusion, we can see how foolish these charges actually were.
Last May, after Giuliani confirmed in a TV interview that Trump had been aware of payouts to Stormy Daniels, supposedly a major gaffe, James Downie had this to say in the Washington Post:
It was bad enough for the president that he had to settle for Giuliani after other more capable legal minds such as Theodore B. Olson turned him down. It’s even more embarrassing that, after Giuliani’s other disastrous interviews, this White House was still fine with him representing the president on a major talk show. With the talent pool around Trump this shallow, no wonder the president can’t stop tripping over himself.
In January of this year, Mother Jones went further: “Many people are asking what the deal is with this. Is Giuliani nuts? Senile? Totally out of control? Or what?” Now that the dust has settled in the Mueller probe, the answer appears to be “an extremely competent and effective defense attorney whose client was cleared.”
Giuliani was as much public relations man as in-the-weeds attorney, according to many accounts. And the initial “gaffe” of admitting Trump had Michael Cohen pay off Stormy Daniels was in fact a clue as to his overall approach. At the time I wrote this in these pages:
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.
Throughout the last year, this has been Giuliani’s approach. Get in front of damning news not related to collusion and keeping pressure on Mueller to complete his investigation as soon as possible. This two-pronged plan has worked perfectly thus far.
When Cohen testified before Congress last month, he did have some damning things to say about his former boss, the president. But we already knew all of them, mainly thanks to Giuliani. The testimony was mostly a sordid and gossipy dud. Had these revelations been new and landing all at once, that would have been a far worse day for the president.
With regard to Mueller, Giuliani’s pressure may well have helped lead to wrapping up the investigation in a little over two years—not a very long time for special counsel investigations. Furthermore, he succeeded in shielding his client from a one-on-one interview with Muller, and the potential perjury traps that could have set. This was a significant win.
The former mayor banked on the fact that not enough evidence existed to subpoena the president and, according to CNN reporting, that was exactly what happened: “The source said the sensitive discussions between Justice Department officials and the special counsel team, and the determination that a subpoena would not be pursued, were based on the perception of the evidence, and merits of the issues–separate and apart from the fact that current department policy dictates that a sitting president cannot be indicted.”
It really should come as no surprise that Giuliani was as effective in this role as he was. This is, after all, the man who spearheaded the mafia commission case in the 1980s. That was, then and now, one of the largest and most successful conspiracy prosecutions of all time, and it was a devastating blow to organized crime. If anyone knows how conspiracy cases work, it is Rudolph Giuliani.
Indeed, Giuliani can now be said to have successfully prosecuted and defended two of the most important federal conspiracy cases in American history. One took down the mob and another protected the duly elected president of the United States from fabricated allegations of wrongdoing.
Oh, and in between, he was one of the most effective mayors New York City has ever had, absolutely transforming Gotham from a crime-ridden mess into one of the safest and economically sound cities in the country. And that is to say nothing of his leadership in the wake of 9/11.
On Thursday, the New York Yankees have their home opener. I hope Rudy takes a well-earned day off to watch his beloved Bronx Bombers. Over the past year he has been ridiculed, mocked, and castigated, warned that he is destroying his reputation. As has generally been the case in his long career of public service, he was right and his critics were wrong. Now the only question left might be: Which bridge will New York City name after him?