When Rudolph W. Giuliani joined Fox News's “Outnumbered” on Monday afternoon, he was on cleanup duty — mopping up a mess he created. But lost in the shuffle over his attempted clarifications were a couple of somewhat remarkable admissions.
Giuliani essentially conceded that he was saying things not necessarily because they were correct but because he was being strategic.
“The only crime there is hacking, and it’s ridiculous to think that the president hacked,” Giuliani said, again propping up a straw man he had erected and knocked down earlier in the day. “Now, why do I say that? I say that to attack the legitimacy of the investigation.”
Giuliani has previously denied that he aimed to undermine special counsel Robert S. Mueller III — “It's not a strategy to undermine it,” he said two months ago — so this was some refreshing honesty about his tactics.
In the same response, Giuliani also seemed to admit that his comment about how “collusion is not a crime” was merely him using an age-old lawyering strategy.
“I’ve been saying that from the very beginning,” he said. “It's a very, very familiar lawyer's argument that the alternative — 'My client didn’t do it, and even if he did it, it’s not a crime.' ”
And by late Monday, Giuliani was making the case to the Daily Beast that he had just engaged in a successful effort to squash potential newspaper reports about a separate meeting before the Trump Tower meeting, at which the later meeting was discussed.
This wasn't the first time Giuliani had gone down this road. Indeed, he often seems to justify his strained and contradictory arguments on President Trump's behalf on the grounds that he is just doing what any lawyer would do. Except most lawyers wouldn't admit that's what they're doing while they're doing it.
The most pronounced example was in a late-May CNN interview, when Giuliani conceded that his criticisms of Mueller's probe were intended to persuade members of Congress not to support impeaching or removing Trump after Mueller's report is issued. Giuliani wasn't necessarily admitting to doing anything wrong, mind you, but he seemed to go out of his way to telegraph the strategy rather than simply state the facts as he knew them.
“We are defending — to a large extent, remember, Dana, we are defending here — it is for public opinion, because eventually the decision here is going to be impeach/not impeach,” Giuliani told CNN anchor Dana Bash on May 27. “Members of Congress, Democrat and Republican, are going to be informed a lot by their constituents. So, our jury is the American — as it should be — is the American people. And the American people, yes, are Republicans largely, independents pretty substantially, and even Democrats now question the legitimacy of it.”
Giuliani also did this while chatting with CNN the week before about Trump's baseless claim that the FBI implanted a spy into his campaign. In that May 18 interview, Giuliani admitted that he and Trump didn't actually know that to be the case.
“Here's the issue that I really feel strongly about with this informant, if there is one,” he began. “First of all, I don't know for sure, nor does the president, if there really was one. We're told that. For a long time, we've been told that there was some kind of infiltration. At one time, the president thought it was a wiretap.”
Giuliani added that Trump “may turn out to be closer to truth than people thought.”
And last month, when Giuliani called on Mueller to end his investigation, he later told Politico that it was a tactic.
“I didn’t think it would [end],” Giuliani said with a laugh. “But I still think it should be.”
“That’s what I’m supposed to do,” he added. “What am I supposed to say? That they should investigate him forever? Sorry, I’m not a sucker.”
So what to make of all of it? Perhaps Giuliani recognizes that the things he's tasked with saying aren't all that defensible or coherent, and he wants to reinforce that he's advocating for a client. We see this regularly with Trump spokesmen who will emphasize that it's not them personally denying something, but rather it's the president's denial. That at least theoretically reduces their own culpability if that denial winds up being false. And if Trump is found culpable for some wrongdoing in the Mueller probe, Giuliani can emphasize that he was just doing his job.
Or perhaps Giuliani is just marveling at his own strategic acumen — so much so that he needs to tell people about it.
Whichever is the case, it's a very unusual strategy to talk so much about your strategy.