Even by Rudolph W. Giuliani's standards, that was a quick and ridiculous reversal.
On Thursday night, the Associated Press had a big new exclusive: Giuliani had told them that not only would President Trump not submit to an interview with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III about obstruction of justice but that the president also wouldn't answer any questions in writing about that portion of the investigation.
"That’s a no-go. That is not going to happen,” Giuliani said. “There will be no questions at all on obstruction.”
But even in its report, the AP clearly didn't trust Giuliani. “It’s unclear if Giuliani’s public position has been endorsed by Trump,” it wrote, which is an amazing thing to have to caveat about public comments from the lawyer for the president of the United States.
I tweeted this:
And, lo, our caution was quickly vindicated. NBC's Hallie Jackson reported shortly thereafter that Giuliani had walked back his own comments, saying obstruction questions were “not ruled in or out.”
Giuliani also told Politico: “We're very opposed to that [but] we're not closing it off 100 percent. We don't want to mislead [prosecutors] and have them think it's easy, but we have also not closed our mind to it."
Who could have seen this coming?
Trump himself was asked about Giuliani's AP comments in an interview airing Friday morning on “Fox and Friends,” and he totally ignored the question:
FOX AND FRIENDS: One more quick question back to Washington, Rudy Giuliani just told the AP that you will not be answering any questions written or in person to the so called special counsel, can you confirm that?
TRUMP: Look, there’s no collusion, even in these crazy books they don’t talk about collusion. There was no collusion with Russia, I love this country. Now if we get along with China, where we’re doing very well with trade, you notice what’s happening, you see what’s going on. ...
What's stunning here is not just that Giuliani was caught in yet another lightning-quick contradiction but the topic on which it came.
This would have been big, because it would have basically foreclosed any Trump-Mueller interview from happening, once and for all — after months and months of negotiations. We had previously learned that Mueller had agreed to let Trump answer questions about the 2016 campaign in writing. Those questions would logically cover the other of two portions of the investigation involving Trump: collusion.
By taking any obstruction questions off the table, there would be nothing left to interview Trump about. That would mean we were moving into a new and final stage of the investigation. Giuliani has to have known this. And, yet, he went out there and made really big news that was apparently based upon nothing.
As with all things Giuliani and Trump, the question is whether Giuliani is just saying things or Trump changes his mind. What's clear is that we can't really take anything to the bank until the interview happens or an agreement is officially reached. In the meantime, Giuliani will apparently keep talking.