Only a few months ago he was an “honourable man.” Now honour has apparently been replaced by dishonour. “The man is a pathological manipulator, a liar,” Rudy Giuliani declared on “Fox News Sunday.” For good measure, he also referred to him as a “scoundrel.” Ooh la la. How long before he goes on to describe Michael Cohen as the Bill Sikes of Trumpworld?
Today, Giuliani has once more entered the lists for Trump in an apparent attempt to sanitise the Trump Tower meeting in June 2016 that had Kremlin-linked figures promising dirt on Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump Jr. declaring, “If it’s what you say I love it.” This meeting has become the fulcrum around which conspiracy theories about the Trump campaign revolve. Even as Trump keeps tweeting his favourite phrase “no collusion” with metronomic regularity, Giuliani conceded on CNN today that there was a planning meeting for the big meeting, which was attended by former Paul Manafort aide Rick Gates who is currently cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller — though mere hours later, he is now stating that he was in fact denying that a pre-planning meeting occurred. Perhaps Giuliani is trying to speak on two levels at the same time by engaging in exoteric and esoteric speech.
In any case, Giuliani’s true mission appears to be to keep Trump’s base supplied with arguments, however specious, to retain faith in Mr. Big. He suggested that even if there was collusion, it wouldn’t have been illegal — “collusion is not a crime” — and went out of his way to underscore that Donald Trump never attended the main pow-wow. Writing in Slate, however, Ed Shugerman notes, “Prosecutors would need to show more than just a meeting to prove such a conspiracy, but Trump has provided some of that evidence in broad daylight and on national TV. If Trump did know of the Trump Tower meeting, then his subsequent public statements encouraging Russian cooperation could be viewed as a signal to the Russians, particularly given that they seemed to actually follow through.”
A further spate of publicity about Trump’s Russian entanglements is sure to come tomorrow when his former campaign manager Manafort goes to trial — unless he cuts a last-minute deal with Mueller. It would probably take an Evelyn Waugh to chronicle Manafort’s exploits abroad, which sound like something out of Scoop. Mueller revealed today that Manafort allegedly earned upwards of a cool $60 million from his adventures as a consultant in making Ukraine great again. If Mueller loses the trial, it will be a huge victory for Trump. But if he wins a conviction, it will further erode Trump’s ability to depict the investigation as a mere witch hunt.
Trump is experiencing difficulties on other fronts as well. The Koch network has decried the divisiveness engendered by Trump’s presidency and announced today that it will not support Kevin Cramer for the U.S. Senate in North Dakota—Americans for Prosperity has already aired an ad thanking Sen. Heidi Heitkamp for rolling back provisions of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law and it may figure that Cramer is a lost cause, which would be bad news for the GOP’s hopes for retaining or even expanding its hold on the Senate. When it comes to the battle for the House, the Republican position is also weakening. According to Nate Cohn, “the battleground is broad, and it includes a long list of working-class and rural districts that voted for Donald J. Trump in 2016. The broader battleground is a positive development for Democrats. It’s a reflection of how much the Republican structural advantage in the House has eroded over the last year.”
In an attempt to mobilise his base for the November elections, Trump is threatening to shut down the government this fall absent full funding for a border wall. But the unpopularity of shutdowns means that he could end up shutting down Republican hopes in the midterm elections.