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

Trump’s latest line on Giuliani should probably make him nervous

Updated

All things considered, the fall season has been a rough time for Rudy Giuliani.

Testimony from the impeachment process puts the former New York City mayor near the center of the Ukraine scandal. His associates are facing criminal trouble. Giuliani himself appears to be under an intensifying criminal investigation. Key figures are prepared to testify against him. There’s increased scrutiny of his lobbying efforts on behalf of foreign clients, and the resulting image is deeply unflattering.

It’s against this backdrop that Giuliani’s most powerful client, Donald Trump, sat down with Bill O’Reilly yesterday. Bloomberg Politics reported:

Donald Trump denied directing Rudy Giuliani to go to Ukraine to look for dirt on his political rivals, in an interview with former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly.

“No, I didn’t direct him, but he is a warrior, he is a warrior,” Trump told O’Reilly in an interview streamed on the internet on Tuesday.

Asked by O’Reilly what Giuliani was doing in Ukraine, Trump said “you have to ask that to Rudy.”

The president added, “Rudy has other clients, other than me.”

When the host asked, “You didn’t direct him to go [to Ukraine] on your behalf?” Trump replied, “No.”

First, this probably wasn’t the answer Giuliani was hoping to hear from his client. Second, the president’s line is literally unbelievable.

As Jon Chait explained last night, listening to Trump’s claim is “a vertigo-inducing experience. The notion that an unpaid attorney holding no government job or foreign policy experience took control of American policy in a crucial region to the extent that diplomats in two countries spent months attempting to placate him – and did this all on his own – is so preposterous that merely to describe the scenario is to debunk it. Obviously, obviously, Giuliani was acting on Trump’s behalf.”

Chait went on to note some of the instances in which Giuliani boasted about his efforts on Trump’s behalf, and the sworn testimony of a variety of officials who confirmed that Giuliani was acting on Trump’s behalf, but as Rachel noted at the top of last night’s show, we can also take the president’s rhetoric at face value: the White House released a call summary of Trump’s July 25 phone meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which Trump talked about coordination between Kyiv and Giuliani on Trump’s behalf.

The Republican told his Ukrainian counterpart, “I will have Mr. Giuliani give you a call.”

And now Trump wants people to believe he had nothing to do with Giuliani’s efforts in Ukraine? Seriously?

Postscript: Twice in recent weeks Giuliani has referenced an “insurance” policy he believes may help him in the event of political trouble. One wonders if he’s checking the terms of that policy this morning.