In what appeared to be an effort to vindicate the president’s prediction that he’d eventually “get his facts straight,” Trump’s new lead lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, walked back earlier comments in a statement that will probably create fresh confusion about his client’s actions and intentions.
The statement did have the advantage of brevity, and it was pretty clear which earlier comments Giuliani was trying to retract, blur, or place in a different context:
These are my views:
There is no campaign violation. The payment was made to resolve a personal and false allegation in order to protect the President’s family. It would have been done in any event, whether he was a candidate or not.
Having revealed that Trump had in fact reimbursed Cohen for his payments to porn star Stormy Daniels, embroiling him in that potentially illegal scheme, Giuliani is now arguing that it had nothing to do with the fact that the mogul was about to face voters in a presidential election. It’s an argument, but hardly a compelling one, and it will naturally lead into an examination of other payoffs or suppressions of allegations that presumably Trump would prefer to leave in the shadows.
My references to timing were not describing my understanding of the President’s knowledge, but instead, my understanding of these matters.
This cleanup effort is the most straightforward, despite its awkward wording. Giuliani is denying that he was revealing details of private conversations with Trump about who did what and when, which might be construed as waiving the attorney-client privilege and lead to a whole world of troubling questions he could not just refuse to answer.
It is undisputed that the President’s dismissal of former Director Comey — an inferior executive officer — was clearly within his Article II power. Recent revelations about former Director Comey further confirm the wisdom of the President’s decision, which was plainly in the best interests of our nation.
This word salad is intended to withdraw Giuliani’s earlier suggestion that the FBI director was fired for not giving Trump a clean bill of health on the Russian collusion investigation. That came dangerously close to an admission of possible obstruction of justice by the president.
The statement may sorta, kinda answer some questions about the former mayor’s earlier remarks, but it raises others, including the full sequence of events and communications involving Cohen and Daniels, and of course the looming question about the Comey firing and what it was intended to punish or suppress.
As a damage-control exercise, Giuliani’s statement might have been the best he could manage on short notice and under intense pressure. But it’s a reminder that this lawyer and this client both have a problem keeping the facts, and their stories, straight.