Watching President Trump’s lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani try to have it all ways (“No. I don’t believe [Roger Stone told Trump about WikiLeaks]. But again, 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”), and hearing the president and his surrogates pretend that felonies are akin to “jaywalking” or paperwork violations, one might feel annoyed — if not infuriated — by the deceit and disdain for the law. At times, as on Fox News on Sunday, Giuliani becomes a source of comic relief:
WALLACE: The president has changed his story repeatedly about whether or not he knew about hush money. Here is what he said on Air Force One -- the president said on Air Force One this April, eight months ago. . . . The president said he doesn’t know anything about any payments, but in one of those tapes that you’re talking about where Cohen surreptitiously taped the president -- this is back in September of 2016 -- here are the president and Cohen discussing a potential -- . . . . So which is it? Did the president know about the hush money payments or not?
GIULIANI: Chris, there’s an intervening event that you’re not talking about. I know this really well because I got criticized for revealing this when I first came into the case. Nobody really understood why I was doing it. . . .
When I first came into the case, we went through the whole case. The president saw some notes and documents, thought about it, and I went out and said, no, there was an intervening conversation after the payments took place and before the revelations you're talking about on Air Force One.
The president did talk to Cohen or to people in between and they arranged to reimburse Cohen. This was after the payment was made, after it was over, after the campaign was over. . . .
WALLACE: They're talking about a conversation, sir, in September of 2016 during the campaign. The president is clearly aware that David Pecker, the head of "National Enquirer" had paid off Karen McDougal and they're talking about reimbursing McDougal --
GIULIANI: Well, you know, that's --
WALLACE: -- or reimbursing Pecker for that payment.
GIULIANI: But there's a -- there's a big difference here. That was a - that was a conversation he was asked, middle of the campaign, I was with him back then in the middle of the campaign, he's working 18 hours a day. I wasn't able to remember a lot of things that happened in September of 2016. He was asked it one time.
When he sat down with his lawyer and went through it in great detail and saw things that could refresh his recollection, we immediately corrected it.
Nobody pushed us, nobody found it, we found it. And we corrected it and I got criticized like crazy for doing it. . . .
WALLACE: You're moving shells around on me. Either it happened or it didn't happen.
GIULIANI: But that's what lawyers do all the time. You argue in the alternative. I'm telling it --
WALLACE: But I’m asking you for the truth, sir.
Well, the truth is clearly not part of Giuliani’s job description. Who in the world would take seriously Giuliani’s self-contradictions, blatant misstatements of law and fact, and smears of prosecutors? Not that many people, it turns out.
It may be of some solace to those exasperated with the lies and mumbo-jumbo defenses of the president to learn that the vast majority of Americans don’t buy what Trump and his flacks are saying. Indeed, hardly anyone outside the cult of Trump is being persuaded by much of anything he says these days.
The latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll reports, “Asked in the poll if Trump has been honest and truthful when it comes to the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign and related matters, 62 percent of all adults say they disagree. That includes 94 percent of Democrats, 64 percent of independents and a quarter (24 percent) of Republicans.” The poll has little if any good news for Trump apologists:
Also in the poll, a combined 50 percent of Americans say the Russia investigation — led by special counsel Robert Mueller — has given them “major,” “fairly major” or “just some” doubts about Trump’s presidency, versus 44 percent who say it hasn’t given them more doubts. . . .
What’s more, a plurality of respondents — 46 percent — say the convictions and guilty pleas of members of Trump’s 2016 campaign suggest potential wrongdoing by the president, compared with 23 percent who believe the wrongdoing is limited only to those individuals; 28 percent don’t know enough to say.
Whether related or not, Trump’s approval in this poll dropped three points since the midterms. Moreover, “48 percent of Americans say they want Democrats in Congress to take the lead role in setting policy for the country, versus 21 percent who want congressional Republicans to take the lead and 19 percent who want Trump in charge.”
It’s interesting that of all the public figures the pollsters asked about, Michelle Obama has by far the biggest net positive rating (+38), followed by the FBI (+34). Way down the list are the Democratic Party (+2), the Republican Party (-10) and Trump (-15). But at the bottom of the list are two of Trump’s favorite regimes, Russia (-52) and Saudi Arabia (-53). It’s almost like everyone Trump attacks gets support from the public and anyone he embraces gets a thumbs-down.
The main takeaway is Trump and the Trumpsters are talking to themselves and putting off most everyone else. Former Federal Election Commission chairman Trevor Potter observed on CBS’s “Face the Nation”: “You had the president’s lawyer, Mr. Giuliani say, ‘It’s not a big deal, no one was killed.’ That is not the standard for the president of the United States in terms of complying with the law or all of these people around him. Now if it were, we wouldn’t have bank fraud prosecutions, money laundering; all sorts of other issues.” Potter’s view that the president and his surrogates may be “saying that violations of law don’t matter. . . . [but] I don’t think that’s where we are as a country. We believe in the rule of law.” According to the polls, he’s right.
Giuliani and Sean Hannity and the right-wing echo chamber and Republican sycophants can tell themselves and their cult-followers whatever fairy tale they’d like about the president and his involvement in wrongdoing. They aren’t convincing much of anyone — and if anything they are convincing the rest of the United States that Trumpists are operating in some parallel universe. Here on Earth, Trump looks more and more like a frantic liar who’ll say anything to stay out of jail and in office.