The Wall Street Journal has some new reporting on the relationship between President Trump, Rudy Giuliani, and Attorney General William Barr. In his July phone call with Ukrainian president Vlodomyr Zelensky, Trump lumped Barr and Giuliani together as lawyers who would carry out his wildly improper orders to gin up investigations of Trump’s enemies, “refer[ring] to the two men almost interchangeably,” the Journal reports. The premise manages to be unflattering to both men.
Barr is upset because Trump sees him as his Roy Cohn, rather than as the dignified attorney general he has attempted to posture as in public. The attorney general “was surprised and angry to discover weeks later that the president had lumped him together with Mr. Giuliani on the phone call with Mr. Zelensky.”
Rudy, of course, publicly hoped to be given a Cabinet position in the administration. Instead he’s in a place where actual Cabinet members complain that that they’re being implicitly compared with him.
Deeper in the article, we encounter numerous other examples of Giuliani’s surrendering the remainder of his tattered dignity in the service of Trump. Trump’s method of leadership typically involves demanding absolute fealty of his aides and then mocking them for the sycophancy. He has used this style to humiliate such figures as Michael Cohen and Chris Christie, and he surely has derived particular joy from transforming a former national hero, who was once so admired for his alpha-male persona that he could write book titled Leadership, into his lickspittle.
After Trump’s Access Hollywood comments boasting of sexual assault, Giuliani volunteered to defend him when other allies were too ashamed to do so. Giuliani “taped all five [Sunday] shows — after which Mr. Trump attacked him for his performance. ‘Man, Rudy, you sucked. You were weak. Low energy.’” (It’s sort of hard to generate a high-energy performance when your client has been caught on tape admitting criminal behavior.)
Trump has also “often needled the former mayor for falling asleep on long flights, and joked about whether Mr. Giuliani was looking at cartoons on his iPad, a former aide” tells the Journal. There’s obviously nothing wrong with using long plane flights to sleep, but Trump — who does not sleep on plane flights and likes to prevent his traveling companions from doing so as well — would unsurprisingly see this as a habit worth mocking. Giuliani’s alleged cartoon-watching would seem to be the one form of media consumption that the cable-news-addicted president could condescend to.
Trump mocked Giuliani in front of others at Steve Mnuchin’s wedding, announcing that Rudy “was spitting while he was talking and order[ing] him to stand elsewhere.”
For all the humiliation and abuse he receives, Giuliani “rarely complained about such treatment, jockeying with other aides and advisers to sit next to Mr. Trump at dinner or on the plane. ‘Rudy never wanted to be left out,’ one former aide said. ‘If you were ever between Rudy and the president, look out. You were going to get trampled.’”
Nobody is going to escape this administration with their dignity intact. It’s gratifying that even though he was denied a position in its Cabinet, Giuliani will be one of its most prominent victims anyway. As Irin Carmon has theorized, all of us have at least some small part inside that likes Trump, because he sometimes turns his horrible bullying on the other horrible people who are attracted to him.