In a new profile, the New York Times gets at a question we’ve all been asking for months: What on earth is Rudy Giuliani doing? Once known as “America’s mayor,” he’s become the fire-breathing legal spokesman for the most divisive president in recent history, often spewing obvious contradictions in Donald Trump’s defense and even appearing to question the existence of objective truth. Basically nobody has bought into Trump’s style or hitched their legacy to Trump like Giuliani, who might otherwise have ridden off into the political sunset as an American uniter.

So how does Giuliani account for his often-bizarre advocacy for Trump? What to make of his frequent apparent missteps and goal-post moving? Doesn’t Giuliani care about consistency and providing an accurate accounting of the Russia investigation?

In a word: No. Giuliani doesn’t really care about all that.

Here’s the most telling part of the profile, to my mind:

Mr. Giuliani shrugged off suggestions that he was a discombobulated advocate, ill serving a client who happens to be the so-called leader of the free world. “You probably can’t do this without making a mistake or two,” he said, then quickly noted with evident satisfaction that “[Robert] Mueller is now slightly more distrusted than trusted, and Trump is a little ahead of the game.”
“So I think we’ve done really well,” said the president’s lawyer. “And my client’s happy.”

And there it is.

This is not the first time that Giuliani has copped publicly to the game he’s playing. He has admitted that he aims “to attack the legitimacy of the investigation” and said he’s mostly preparing for the potential impeachment battle lying ahead — given that it appears Mueller doesn’t believe he can indict a sitting president. “It is for public opinion, because eventually the decision here is going to be impeach, not impeach,” Giuliani said in May.

But the latest comment is especially telling. Giuliani isn’t just saying that the investigation is illegitimate — as he has many times before — or that he’s preparing for the after-action. He’s admitting that job No. 1 is to undermine the man in charge of it. It’s the end that justifies all the unholy means. It’s the thing that makes him a good lawyer for his client.

It’s often said that politics ain’t beanbag, and that’s true. We should probably expect that a lawyer like Giuliani would have this goal, and it’s certainly what Trump demands of his lawyers. But what’s remarkable here is the wager that Giuliani has placed on that whole strategy, his admission that it is all just a strategy and the cost at which it may come for him personally.

Giuliani’s defense of himself isn’t, “What I’m saying is just the truth,” but instead, “What I’m saying is working because it’s tearing down my opponent,” who happens to be a respected longtime law enforcement official. It’s a uniquely Trumpian philosophy, so perhaps it’s only appropriate that it’s become Trump’s chief line of defense in an increasingly embattled presidency.