Lawyer and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani at a press conference after appearing in court to call for the dismissal of a lawsuit filed against video game giant Activision in Los Angeles, Calif., Oct. 16, 2014.
Photo by Damian Dovarganes/AP

Targeting State Department, Giuliani broadens scandal

To a very real degree, the scandal rocking Donald Trump’s presidency has been hiding in plain sight for months. Americans first learned in the spring, for example, about Rudy Giuliani’s efforts to press Ukraine into cooperating with a scheme to help Donald Trump’s re-election plans.

NBC News’ First Read team called it “a five-alarm scandal,” adding, “How isn’t this the biggest political story in America right now – Team Trump wants the help from another foreign government to dig up dirt on an opponent?”

That was four-and-a-half months ago. It was a scandal bomb with a very long wick.

Regardless, the former New York City mayor has long been near the heart of it all, which isn’t a great place to be. Mimi Rocah, a former assistant U.S. attorney and an NBC/MSNBC legal analyst wrote a striking piece this week suggesting the president’s personal lawyer may have crossed some legal lines. “Based on the facts already in the public arena, the Department of Justice has more than enough basis to open a federal criminal investigation into the former New York mayor,” Rocah wrote.

It’s against this backdrop that some in the Trump administration appear eager to make Giuliani the fall guy, which in turn has led Giuliani to take a rather aggressive posture toward the State Department.

President Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani on Thursday called on Kurt Volker, the U.S. special representative to Ukraine, and other State Department officials to say that they directed Giuliani to meet with Ukrainian officials in the wake of a whistleblower complaint released Thursday on Trump and Giuliani’s contacts with Ukraine.

Giuliani appeared to share text messages from Volker in an appearance on Fox News Thursday night. One encouraged Giuliani to call him to “brief you more about [Ukrainian President Volodymyr] Zelensky dynamic,” and another “connected” Giuliani with Andriy Yermak, a Zelensky aide.

Ahead of the interview, as Giuliani published to Twitter a text he purportedly received from Volker in July, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) replied, “This isn’t real, is it? Giuliani didn’t just voluntarily expose a highly illegal coordination between the Trump campaign and the State Department”?

MSNBC’s Chris Hayes added, “Giuliani clearly thinks it gets him off the hook if the State Department was deeply involved in this whole mess, but the more State was involved the bigger the scandal.”

Quite right. I don’t much care about some brewing feud involving Giuliani and the State Department, with both sides of the fight trying to use the media to throw their perceived foe under the bus. I do, however, care about what we’re learning as a result of their dispute.

Whether Giuliani is telling the truth or not remains to be seen, but it’s no small development when a high-profile member of the president’s legal team – facing some legal jeopardy – spends a week directly implicating the State Department in a scandal that’s likely to lead to presidential impeachment.

Nevertheless, as Trump administration officials turn on him, the former mayor appears to be struggling with the pressure. “It is impossible that the whistle-blower is a hero and I’m not,” Giuliani told The Atlantic’s Elaina Plott yesterday. “And I will be the hero! These morons – when this is over, I will be the hero.”

If Giuliani is counting on this outcome, he should probably start lowering his expectations now. His goal should be to avoid legal trouble, not to attain “hero” status.