Friday, September 20, 2019

Premature Assumption

The reviews of Rudy Giuliani's interview with CNN's Chris Cuomo are in. They were not kind, and included

To paraphrase and adapt liberally a trite cliché:  Gura has forgotten more about broadcast journalism, Nichols about foreign policy, and Bitecofer about polling than you or I ever will ever know.

However, we should recall the time when the question was "will he or won't he?" Trump, it was explained, had too much of an ego to refrain from going up against the Special Counsel and coming out on top. He craved the spotlight and wouldn't pass up an opportunity to sit for an interview with Robert Mueller.

But President Trump, inaccurately derided as stupid (though he is ignorant) and crazy (though he's obviously not a healthy man), made the rational decision. Though the President had been asked to answer questions from the Office of the Special Counsel about obstruction of justice

Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani said questions about obstruction of justice were a "no-go."

Giuliani's statement was the most definitive rejection yet of special counsel Robert Mueller's efforts to interview the president about any efforts to obstruct the investigation into possible coordination between his campaign and Russians. It signals the Trump's lawyers are committed to protecting the president from answering questions about actions the president took in office.

It's unclear if Giuliani's public position has been endorsed by Trump, who has said he wants to answer questions under oath. Negotiations about the scope and format of an interview are still ongoing. If the legal team holds its stance, it could force Mueller to try to subpoena the president, likely triggering a standoff that would lead to the Supreme Court.

Giuliani may have known, or at least suspected, what most of us didn't, and what still was an abdication of responsibility by Robert Mueller. The Special Counsel would not only avoid subpoenaing, but wouldn't even ask, Trump to be interviewed in person, rejection of which would have revealed that the President had something to hide. 

Trump agreed to answer questions in writing, presumably because any responses could be vetted by both his legal and political teams. He would answer in writing- without follow-up, as demanded by Giuliani- inquiries only about whether the Trump campaign had conspired with Russia. That inured politically to the President's advantage. The former New York mayor had his way on the matters of a) in what format the questions would be answered; b) whether there would be follow-up; and c) the subject area. And so we learned

Trump's legal team has argued that the president has the power to hire and fire appointees and the special counsel does not have the authority to ask him to explain those decisions. Giuliani said Thursday the team was steadfast in that position.

"That's a no-go. That is not going happen," Giuliani said. "There will be no questions at all on obstruction."

In a letter last week, Mueller's team said it would accept written responses from Trump on questions related to Russian election interference. Giuliani suggested Thursday that Trump's lawyers had agreed to those terms but wanted to prohibit investigators from asking follow-up questions.

The former New York City mayor is belligerent, emotional, and dishonest. But as of now, he also has been an extraordinary legal adviser to President Donald Trump. So don't count him out.  While no one can predict what an impulsive and corrupt President will do with, or to, his staff,  we cannot assume that Rudy Giuliani's remarks to Chris Cuomo were stupid, detrimental to the President, or reflected the ramblings of a lawyer over the hill. We made that mistake once about the guy.

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