The first sign of trouble for Rudy Giuliani in yesterday’s “Meet the Press” interview came during an exchange over the infamous June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower between leading Trump campaign officials and Russian operatives.
Referring to Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, the president’s lawyer insisted that all Trump campaign officials knew ahead of the meeting was “that a woman with a Russian name wanted to meet with them. They didn’t know she was a representative of the Russian government and indeed, she’s not a representative of the Russian government. So, this is much ado about nothing.”
Even by Giuliani standards, this was outrageously wrong. As NBC News reported, emails released by Donald Trump Jr. – one of the participants who helped set up the meeting – show “he emailed with publicist Rob Goldstone to set up the meeting and that Goldstone specifically tied the information to the Russian government.”
Indeed, we learned more than a year ago that Goldstone alerted Trump Jr. to “very high level and sensitive information” that was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”
All of which makes clear that Giuliani’s claims yesterday were badly at odds with reality. The trouble is, the former mayor, in the same interview, took issue with the nature of reality. Consider this exchange between Giuliani and NBC News’ Chuck Todd.
GIULIANI: When you tell me that, you know, [Trump] should testify [before Special Council Robert Mueller] because he’s going to tell the truth and he shouldn’t worry, well that’s so silly because it’s somebody’s version of the truth. Not the truth. He didn’t have a, a conversation –
TODD: Truth is truth. I don’t mean to go like –
GIULIANI: No, it isn’t truth. Truth isn’t truth.
As outlandish as the claim was, the presidential attorney insisted he meant to say that. Indeed, Giuliani tried to defend it.
He specifically pointed to the dispute over Trump’s alleged pressure on former FBI Director James Comey over the federal investigation into Michael Flynn, the disgraced former White House national security adviser. Giuliani and Trump say there was no conversation with Comey about Flynn, while Comey and his contemporaneous say the opposite. Therefore, according to Giuliani, there is no “truth.”
But that’s not what “truth” means. Trump and Comey may have competing claims about the same event, but that doesn’t mean the truth doesn’t exist; it means one of them is lying.
Nevertheless, what we’re left with is the latest in a series of Orwellian attempts from Trump World to undermine empiricism. Giuliani, for example, is on record saying, as part of his response to the Russia scandal, “I don’t know how you separate fact and opinion,” “Truth is relative,” and just last week, “Facts are in the eye of the beholder.”
The president himself, meanwhile, continues to tell his followers that he should be considered the sole authority for truth. Trump told an audience last month, “Just remember: What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.” A week later, the president added, “Polls are fake, just like everything else.”
It’s bewildering, of course, which is almost certainly the point. Trump and his team want the public to be kept off-balance, unsure of what’s true and what’s not, confident that in a war against reality, the White House will prevail.
Here’s hoping they’re wrong.