Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, last seen celebrating his birthday by being booed at Yankee Stadium, appeared on ABC’s “This Week” with George Stephanopoulos Sunday morning. And, as is his wont, he did not do his client many favors during his typically freewheeling performance. Instead, he mostly made the president sound very guilty. His three most (unintentionally) damning arguments, below:
1) Most of what Trump did was probably legal
On Saturday, the New York Times reported that Trump’s lawyers had sent Special Counsel Robert Mueller a 20-page letter laying out their argument that the president cannot, by definition, obstruct justice. Questioned about this frightening assertion, Giuliani first advance the shaky theory that Trump didn’t obstruct anything by firing FBI Director James Comey, because he knew the investigation into Russian interference would continue without him. He also said that when Trump told Comey to let the Michael Flynn investigation go, he didn’t mean what he almost certainly meant:
But then Giuliani topped himself with this gem:
Ah yes, the toothpaste-ad approach to justice. Four out of five motives are pure!
2) Memory is Malleable
Stephanopoulus noted that in the letter Trump’s lawyers sent to Mueller, they made it clear that Trump personally dictated a misleading statement about the infamous June 2016 meeting between Trump campaign officials and Russian operatives. Previously, the White House had denied, unconvincingly, that the president had anything to do with that missive. The administration then changed its story, admitting Trump had played a role in the statement’s drafting but not that he dictated it.
Giuliani’s response to all this:
“Our recollection keeps changing” has not, historically, been a winning legal argument.
3) Sure, Trump can pardon himself
Amid signs that Trump will have little compunction about pardoning underlings who don’t turn state’s evidence on him, Stephanopoulos asked if the president has the power to let himself off the hook.
“He has no intention of pardoning himself, but…it doesn’t say he can’t!” Giuliani said. “That’s another really interesting Constitutional argument…can the president pardon himself?” he mused. “It would be an open question, but gosh, I think it would probably get answered by, ‘Gosh, that’s what the Constitution says, and if you want to change it, change it.’”
From a Constitutional perspective, Giuliani may have a point. Still, his casually tossed-off assertion that a president under investigation can place himself completely above the law may have made even Richard Nixon blush.
It should come as no surprise, though, given the other signals Trump’s legal team has sent recently. Their overarching legal argument — that the president can do whatever he wants — has become clearer than ever in recent days. Giuliani’s points to a looming constitutional crisis that will pit the Trump administration’s declaration of king-like powers against the rule of law.