The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

A Trump lawyer admits you can’t believe him — again

‘You throw a fake,' Giuliani said repeatedly in a 2018 interview with federal investigators

Former president Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani speaks to reporters after an interview with One America News last year. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
Placeholder while article actions load

A top lawyer for former president Donald Trump who pushed Trump’s claims of widespread electoral fraud has admitted, amid scrutiny of his election claims, that he maybe just made stuff up.


The Washington Post’s Devlin Barrett has the new details on what Rudolph W. Giuliani and his then-law partner, Marc Mukasey, told investigators in 2018 in a probe into Giuliani’s claims of having been leaked information by “active” FBI agents in 2016.

We knew, on the basis of the Justice Department inspector general’s report, that Giuliani had effectively walked back his late-2016 suggestions that he might have known something about the FBI’s reopening its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails. Giuliani’s comments surrounding then-FBI Director James B. Comey’s announcement were problematic because they indicated that he, a political ally of a presidential candidate, might have received nonpublic law enforcement information about an opponent late in a campaign.

The inspector general, Michael Horowitz, found no evidence that that was the case. But in the course of Horowitz’s reaching that conclusion, Giuliani and Mukasey effectively contended that Giuliani couldn’t possibly be expected to have been telling the truth:

“In the heat of a political campaign, on television, I’m not saying Rudy necessarily, but everybody embellishes everything,” Mukasey said.
“Oh, you could throw a fake,” added Giuliani ...
“You’re under no obligation to tell the truth,” Mukasey replies, according to the transcript. To which Giuliani repeats, “You could throw a fake.”
An agent then said, “Fake news, right?”
Mukasey replied, “Right.”

The thing about this is that it’s largely true — at least from the standpoint of a legal analysis. Political rhetoric is often overheated and false, and courts have allowed wide latitude when it comes to legal liability for such claims.

But it is rare that people are actually forced to suggest that they participated in such political dishonesty. And it doesn’t change the fact that Giuliani was effectively admitting that he really can’t be taken seriously on his election claims.

He also has plenty of company in that distinction among top Trump allies.

If there’s another lawyer who was most synonymous with Trump’s election-fraud claims, it might be the woman with whom Giuliani stood shoulder-to-shoulder while spouting them, Sidney Powell. Powell briefly served officially as Trump’s lawyer, but she pushed bogus claims about voter fraud even outside of that context — to the extent that the Republican National Committee worried about being sued over giving her a venue.

When she was sued herself for those claims — specifically her allegations about the voting-technology company Dominion — Powell’s lawyer, like Giuliani, essentially argued that you couldn’t believe her because she was saying stuff for political effect.

From our reporting in March:

Her legal team claims that “reasonable people” would not take her claims about widespread election fraud as fact.
“Given the highly charged and political context of the statements, it is clear that Powell was describing the facts on which she based the lawsuits she filed in support of President Trump,” Powell’s defense team said in a motion to dismiss.
It added: “Indeed, Plaintiffs themselves characterize the statements at issue as ‘wild accusations’ and ‘outlandish claims.’ They are repeatedly labeled ‘inherently improbable’ and even ‘impossible.’ Such characterizations of the allegedly defamatory statements further support Defendants’ position that reasonable people would not accept such statements as fact but view them only as claims that await testing by the courts through the adversary process.”

This is, again, a familiar legal strategy — one that Fox News host Tucker Carlson also has used.

But despite the strategy, Powell repeatedly insisted that she had real-life proof of her claims, evidence that she would soon produce. More than nine months after the election, it’s still missing — leaving the likes of MyPillow chief executive Mike Lindell to carry the torch forward.

And coincidentally, a federal judge rejected it in Powell’s case on Wednesday, turning aside motions to dismiss the case from her, Guiliani and Lindell.

Beyond Giuliani and Powell, many conservative and pro-Trump outlets that aired claims about voting machines and have been sued have backed off those claims or have run clarifications.

You would think that at some point this might register with those who believed or continue to believe Giuliani’s and Powell’s claims — or the allegations about voting machines. They’ll probably dismiss this as a symptom of unfair legal jeopardy. Just covering their legal backsides! Maybe Giuliani made that up, but the election fraud stuff is true!

But perhaps when someone repeatedly tells a federal agent that they think it’s fair game to “throw a fake” in an election campaign, you should be very wary of them throwing fakes in an election.