When he joined the team, Giuliani appeared to be filling a dual spokesman-mediator role. Like many Trump hires, he had long had experience speaking on behalf and in favor of the president on television, which the president has demonstrated he values highly. But he also said he hoped to negotiate an end to the Mueller probe, and to do so very quickly.
“I’m going to join the legal team to try to bring this to a resolution,” he told the New York Post. “I don’t know yet what’s outstanding. But I don’t think it’s going to take more than a week or two to get a resolution. They’re almost there.”
That was more than three weeks ago. There’s no sign that Mueller is closer to wrapping up his probe or at least clearing the president, as Giuliani effectively conceded this weekend when he speculated about Trump rejecting a subpoena or invoking his Fifth Amendment right and refusing to testify. Since Giuliani joined Trump’s team, there’s been a more intense focus on Michael Cohen and his legal troubles, which is handled by the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s Office and not Mueller, in part because of Giuliani’s own missteps.
Over the same period, Giuliani has seemed to evince an ever-broader role. He is easily the most prominent spokesman for the president’s defense, overshadowing Jay Sekulow, and exceeding the attention granted to either Ty Cobb or John Dowd, former Trump lawyers. (A White House official, asked whether he would encourage Giuliani to appear on Hallie Jackson’s NBC show, replied, “I don’t think he needs my encouragement, Hallie. He seems to be doing a lot of media on his own.”) Yet that’s been a bumpy ride, as Giuliani has repeatedly contradicted himself, and last week Trump scolded him for not knowing what he was talking about: “He started yesterday, he’ll get his facts straight.” Giuliani has also implied that Trump paid far more in hush money than has publicly been reported. Unless the goal is simply to kick up as much dust as possible—never something that can be ruled out as a Trump administration’s communications strategy—it hasn’t gone especially well.
Perhaps Giuliani’s failings as a spokesman would be irrelevant if he were primarily hired for his legal expertise, but that seems unlikely. There are celebrity lawyers, and then there are celebrities who are lawyers. In the first group are figures like Alan Dershowitz, the Harvard professor and Trump defender; Ted Olson, who declined to join Trump’s team; and Emmet Flood, who has just jumped on board. In the latter group is Giuliani, along with a cadre of other people who used the law as a stepping stone to politics.
As Stormy Daniels’s lawyer Michael Avenatti and others have pointed out, Giuliani has sought to prove that there was no violation of campaign-finance law related to the Daniels case, but didn’t appear to understand the law itself. He seemed to acknowledge his weak grasp of the underlying statutes when he told CNN he was “focused on the law more than the facts.” One would expect that the president’s attorney in such a high-profile matter would understand the relevant laws, but Giuliani isn’t best known for his lawyering today. He was a highly celebrated prosecutor in the 1980s, he has not often practiced law since then, and when he did, worked at major firms with fleets of associates to do grunt work for him. But reporting from The New York Times and others suggests that Giuliani is acting without consulting the other lawyers on the Trump team.