West Coasters awakened Thursday morning to a Twitter frenzy over an interview between President Trump’s lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, and CNN’s Chris Cuomo that ranks as one of the more absurd moments in a couple of years’ worth of Trumpian absurdities.
The short version: Giuliani now says that all those previous assertions that there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russians were never said, and that if there was collusion, it was by underlings and the Great Man himself knew nothing about it.
Actually, he said that very thing.
So why did Giuliani start denying what he had previously said? And why did he separate defending the campaign from defending Trump himself, asserting that he doesn’t know whether campaign officials colluded with Russians, but that Trump himself did not?
As Trump’s lawyer, Giuliani must have a pretty good idea what’s going to be in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s pending report on his investigation into whether Russian meddlers in the 2016 presidential campaign had ties to the Trump team. His latest comments suggest that the report is going to contain revelations that directly contradict the president’s denials of collusion between his campaign and the Russians.
It seems that Giuliani is trying to put more distance between the president and his top campaign aides, who include Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, as well as Paul Manafort, who has been convicted of unrelated financial crimes.
Giuliani seeks to change definitions and redraw lines. A defense that began (pre-Giuliani’s involvement) with Trump’s blanket denials and protestations of a witch hunt has shrunk to the bunker position of: Well, if it happened, Trump didn’t know about it.
Look for that to change too. It stretches credulity to think that an executive with Trump’s personal characteristics wouldn’t insist on knowing what was happening as one of the biggest gambits of his life — running for president — unfolded.
But at bottom, the president’s lawyer says he doesn’t know whether collusion occurred between the campaign and Russian meddlers. Even if it’s a lawyer’s strategic play, it’s still astounding.