President Donald Trump likes to see his supporters loudly defending him on television, and since joining the team in April, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani has delivered. He’s also made gaffes with memorable arguments such as “Truth isn’t truth” and, as The New York Times documented last week, continued drumming up business with governments around the world that might see him as a shortcut to the president, whom he defends for free.
On the Sunday-morning talk shows, Giuliani dropped the defense lawyer’s conventional “admit nothing” approach in favor of what might be called “deny nothing.”
Hush-money payments weeks before the November 2016 election to women alleging extramarital affairs? Sure that happened, Giuliani said on ABC’s This Week, but “paying $130,000 to Stormy whatever and paying [$150,000] to the other one is not a crime.” And anyway, he said, those paltry settlement sums show that the women were just looking for money: “I have been involved in cases like this. When it’s true and you have the kind of money the president had, it’s a $1 million settlement. When it’s a harassment settlement and it’s not true, you give them $130,000, $150,000. They went away for so little money that it indicates their case was very, very weak.”
Did members of the Trump campaign collude or coordinate with Russians to influence the election? “I have no idea,” Giuliani said. “I know that collusion is not a crime. It was over with by the time of the election.” It was not clear whether he was admitting something about the 14 Trump associates known to have interacted with Russians during the campaign or the transition.
What about any coordination between WikiLeaks and Trump associates? Longtime adviser Roger Stone traded messages with the anti-secrecy organization and made public statements that claimed or suggested inside information. Stone now denies any contact with the group that made its name by publishing highly classified U.S. military and diplomatic documents. But even if that did happen, Giuliani said, “if Roger Stone gave anybody a heads-up about WikiLeaks’ leaks, that’s not a crime. It would be like giving him a heads-up that the Times is going to print something.”
The negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow that quietly continued well into the presidential campaign? Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen—whom Trump on Sunday called a “rat,” once again invoking the language of mobsters—has testified that he was in talks through June 2016, when news broke about Russian intelligence agencies hacking Democrats. According to Giuliani, Trump’s written answers to the special counsel’s questions say the Trump Tower Moscow discussions may have continued even later, “up to November 2016.”
As for the president’s shifting accounts on various issues, which critics decry as lies to the American people? Aboard Air Force One in April, for example, Trump declared that he did not know about hush-money payments to Stormy Daniels, the adult-film actress who alleged an affair; Giuliani contradicted him in a Fox News interview a month later. “The president’s not under oath,” Giuliani said Sunday of Trump’s false public statements. “And the president tried to do the best he can to remember what happened back at a time when he was the busiest man in the world.”
Giuliani also appeared on Fox News Sunday and said Trump would not sit down for an interview with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team, whom he dismissed as “a joke.” The president submitted written answers to the prosecutors’ questions and will not allow a follow-up interview in person. “Over my dead body,” Giuliani said.
Trump often dismisses allegations because they aren’t proved with certainty, such as the intelligence community’s consensus about Russian election meddling or the CIA’s assessment that the Saudi crown prince most likely ordered the killing of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Giuliani sought to apply that standard to the president’s own actions. Like any defense lawyer, he wants to convince the public that nothing can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt, and he wants to make any doubt seem reasonable. He dismissed Cohen as “a serial liar who taped his own client” and who told one story and now contradicts his old account. “You’re going to tell me which is the truth?” Giuliani said. “I think I know what the truth is. But unless you’re God, you will never know what the truth is.”