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Opinion Rudy Giuliani, drunk on conspiracy theories

Video featuring former president Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani is played during the Jan. 6 committee hearing Monday. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump, his former aides testified, faced a fateful choice on election night 2020: Heed the best advice of his top political and legal advisers? Or go with the erratic drunk guy?

Trump chose Option No. 2.

“President Trump rejected the advice of his campaign experts on election night,” Vice Chairwoman Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) alleged at the start of Monday’s hearing of the House committee probing the Jan. 6, 2021, attack, “and instead followed the course recommended by an apparently inebriated Rudy Giuliani to just claim he won and insist that the vote counting stop, to falsely claim everything was fraudulent.”

A video of Jason Miller, a senior Trump campaign adviser, flashed on the screen above the dais in the Cannon Caucus Room. “The mayor was definitely intoxicated,” Miller testified, but “I do not know his level of intoxication when he spoke with the president.”

What, he wasn’t carrying a Breathalyzer?

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Whatever his blood alcohol level, Giuliani’s nonsense quotient was over the limit. He was saying, “We won it, they’re stealing it from us,” Miller recounted. And “anyone who didn’t agree with that position was being weak.”

So Trump did as Giuliani instructed: He cried fraud and declared victory.

Giuliani, once America’s Mayor and Time’s Person of the Year, long ago became a national punchline, with his melting hair dye and his post-election news conference at Philadelphia’s Four Seasons Total Landscaping. But thanks to the select committee, we now know that people inside the Trump administration and campaign also thought him preposterous — with one key exception: Trump.

The committee relived some of Giuliani’s most ludicrous claims, sometimes accompanied by footage of his wild-eyed TV appearances. Votes “in garbage cans” and in “shopping baskets” being wheeled in for counting under orders from Frankfurt, Germany. Eight thousand dead people voting in Pennsylvania. A suitcase full of ballots pulled from under a table in Georgia. Votes manipulated via Italy, the Philippines and a deceased communist dictator in Venezuela.

Ann Telnaes cartoon: Drunk with power

In depositions screened by the committee, a veritable parade of Trump advisers testified that they told the president what they thought of such ideas: “Bull---t.” “Completely bogus.” “Silly.” “Completely nuts.” “Crazy.” “Incorrect.” “Debunked.” “Idiotic.”

White House lawyer Eric Herschmann, in his videotaped deposition, wondered aloud whether Giuliani, “at this stage of his life,” had “the same ability to manage things at this level or not.”

Trump campaign lawyer Matt Morgan, in his deposition, spoke about his conversations with outside counsel: “The general consensus was that law firms were not comfortable making the arguments that Rudy Giuliani was making.”

But Trump still sided with Giuliani’s lunacies — which “demoralized” the attorney general, Bill Barr. “I thought, ‘Boy, if he really believes this stuff, he has … become detached from reality.'”

Barr worked for Trump for two years before this occurred to him?

Even Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, no profile in courage, testified that he disagreed with Crazy Rudy. Asked in his deposition whether he ever shared with Trump his “perspective” on Giuliani, Kushner paused 10 seconds as he searched for a reply: “Um … I, I guess … [Sigh] … Yes.” Finally, Kushner said he told Trump it was “basically, not the approach I would take if I was you.”

The committee played the deposition of Bill Stepien, Trump’s campaign manager, in which he testified that he disassociated himself from Trump’s bogus election-fraud claims. “There were two groups,” he said, “my team and Rudy’s team.” Stepien’s was, he said, “Team Normal.”

But Trump disbanded Team Normal the second week after the election. Instead, he arranged for “Mayor Giuliani to be moved in as the person in charge of the legal side of the campaign, and, for all intents and purposes, the campaign.”

A Republican-appointed U.S. attorney from Georgia explained how he chased down the Giuliani allegation that a “black suitcase” stuffed with ballots was the “smoking gun”: It was “actually an official ballot box,” handled correctly.

A former Republican official from Pennsylvania testified about investigating Giuliani’s claim to the state legislature that 8,000 dead people voted. “Not only was there not evidence of 8,000 dead voters voting in Pennsylvania, there wasn’t evidence of eight.”

A supposed 68 percent error rate of Michigan voting machines? Trump Justice Department official Richard Donoghue’s deposition said the actual error rate was 0.0063 percent.

But the debunking of each zany conspiracy theory (“whack-a-mole” was Barr’s description) would only cause Trump to “move to another allegation,” Donoghue testified.

And so the “big lie” was born — of no evidence but limitless repetition. Even now, Giuliani is, well, drunk on the idea.

“If you gave me the paper ballots, I could probably turn around each one of these states,” he said to the Jan. 6 committee in his own deposition. “I’d pull out enough that were fraudulent that it would shake the hell out of the country.”

Thanks, Rudy. But Team Abnormal has already done damage enough.

The Jan. 6 insurrection

Congressional hearings: The House committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol held a series of high-profile hearings to share its findings with the U.S. public. In what was likely its final hearing, the committee issued a surprise subpoena seeking testimony from former president Donald Trump. Here’s a guide to the biggest hearing moments so far.

Will there be charges? The committee could make criminal referrals of former president Donald Trump over his role in the attack, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) said in an interview.

What we know about what Trump did on Jan. 6: New details emerged when Hutchinson testified before the committee and shared what she saw and heard on Jan. 6.

The riot: On Jan. 6, 2021, a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to stop the certification of the 2020 election results. Five people died on that day or in the immediate aftermath, and 140 police officers were assaulted.

Inside the siege: During the rampage, rioters came perilously close to penetrating the inner sanctums of the building while lawmakers were still there, including former vice president Mike Pence. The Washington Post examined text messages, photos and videos to create a video timeline of what happened on Jan. 6.