Trump: I might set up a commission headed by Rudy Giuliani to study immigration and admitting Muslims

Hilarious. Fun fact: Border hawks have long distrusted Giuliani on immigration issues, for very good reason. As mayor, he made New York a sanctuary city and defended benefits for illegals. He shifted to a more hardline stance when he ran for president in 2007 (Rudy was the original centrist authoritarian GOPer from NYC) but Republican voters are usually rightly skeptical of the sincerity of conveniently timed conversions by presidential candidates on this issue. Scott Walker tried to run as a Jeff Sessions-esque border hawk last year after many years of supporting comprehensive reform and went nowhere. Marco Rubio spent the past three years trying to inch away from the Gang of Eight bill and ended up losing his home state in a landslide. Yet here’s Trump, the immigration warrior-king (who, let’s not forget, attacked Romney’s self-deportation policy in 2012 as “mean-spirited”), ready to put Giuliani in a position of power on his signature issue. A taste of what Giuliani sounded like on immigration before he thought he might be president:

It was a role he seemed to cherish, becoming a national leader for the cause of welcoming immigrants in the 1990s. To the surprise of many people in both parties, he also spoke passionately about helping those here illegally become citizens, advocating for $12 million to start a city agency that would assist those seeking citizenship. He vigorously defended the city’s policy of forbidding city employees, including police and hospital workers, from asking a person’s immigration status.

As other anti-immigration movements spread across the country in 1990s, Mr. Giuliani consistently pushed back. “The anti-immigration issue that’s now sweeping the country in my view is no different than the movements that swept the country in the past,” he said in 1996. “You look back at the Chinese Exclusionary Act, or the Know-Nothing movement — these were movements that encouraged Americans to fear foreigners, to fear something that is different, and to stop immigration.”

Now he’s a Trump fan. But it gets better. Trump’s asked here specifically about his proposal to ban Muslims temporarily from entering the U.S. His thinking in naming Giuliani, I assume, is that his fans will naturally trust the face of New York’s response to 9/11 to take a hard, skeptical line towards Muslims generally, especially ones who are coming in from abroad. In reality, Giuliani’s traditionally taken the Bush/Obama line that you can’t punish all Muslims for the actions of the worst among them. Here he is at a Republican debate in 2007:

[A] small group of people, Islamic terrorists, who have defiled a great religion, that the vast majority of people who are Islamic, the vast majority of people who are Arabs, the vast majority of people living in these countries are good people. We should be trading with them. We should have contact with them. We should expand our contacts with them. We should have cultural exchanges with them.

The night of September 11th, 2001, when we were beginning to recover — or, not really recover, but maybe just first catch our breath after the attack of September 11th, you’ll see one of the first things I said was I said to the people of my city and then probably to the people of America that we should not engage in group blame.

We shouldn’t do the thing that we’re being attacked for. We shouldn’t blame an entire group of people for the horrible acts of a few people who have distorted a great religion. They have turned it into an ideology of hatred and an ideology of violence.

We should also remain “on offense” against jihadis, he added, which was his way of expressing support for the same war in Iraq that Trump has criticized for years. But it’s gets even better than that. When Giuliani was asked in December by Sean Hannity whether he supports Trump’s temporary ban on Muslims, he answered that it makes sense to bar refugees but that there’s “no question that you violate the First Amendment” if you attempt to screen people by faith. And not only would it be illegal, he added, it would be wildly counterproductive. You’d damage business with the Muslim world and, by treating all of them as possible terrorists, you’d “start radicalizing a lot more of them if you did it.” This is the guy Trump wants leading his “commission” on this subject?

If so, it means one of three things. One: Trump thinks Giuliani will abandon his long-held beliefs about how to deal with the Muslim world once Trump tells him to. Is Rudy that cheap and spineless of a crony? Maybe we’ll find out. Two: Trump floated Giuliani’s name today as a point man on one of his showcase policy proposals without having done a lick of research to see if Rudy’s actually onboard with it. No further comment necessary. Or three: Trump knows exactly how Rudy feels about this and privately wants a pretext to back away from the Muslim ban before the general election. Naming Giuliani as head of the “commission” gives him a reason to say later that he’s been persuaded by his top advisor and good friend, “America’s mayor,” after careful study that maybe he should rethink this. Take your pick of any of the three.