I had to watch the full exchange between him and the “Outnumbered” crew four times to understand what was being asked and answered and why they all seemed so confused by his replies. And maybe that’s the point. His critics assume that Rudy is confused and sloppy in interviews, requiring him to call in to TV shows and clarify things he said on other TV shows an hour earlier. It could be that the confusion is deliberate. If viewers think they’ve lost the plot on what Trump’s being accused of, they’re more likely to give up paying attention. Maybe Rudy’s encouraging them to lose the plot. Anyway, this short clip captures the newsy part from his much longer conversation with the “Outnumbered” cast:
Rudy: Take Two! I Meant to Say The Pre-Planning Meeting Did NOT Happen. pic.twitter.com/Zg87XYkwmG
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) July 30, 2018
The confusion began with something he said on CNN this morning, that he’d be happy to tell Bob Mueller that Trump didn’t attend the meeting that Don Jr had with the Russian lawyer at Trump Tower in summer 2016. Well … okay, but no one’s ever claimed that he did attend. Even Michael Cohen isn’t claiming that. So why was Rudy mentioning it? Was he getting ahead of a forthcoming news story that would allege Trump himself attended the meeting? Or was he trying to move the goalposts for some suspicious reason from Cohen’s actual claim, that Trump knew in advance about Don Jr’s meeting with the Russians? I.e. “Well, whether he knew or not, he certainly wasn’t there!”
Guy Benson brought up that part of the CNN interview from this morning on “Outnumbered,” prompting Rudy to call in. Then he dropped the bombshell in the clip above: Cohen, supposedly, is actually alleging two meetings, one the meeting between Don Jr and the Russians that everyone knows about and a second meeting that no one except a few reporters have heard about so far. Supposedly someone from Team Cohen is whispering to the media that Don Jr, Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, and possibly two other people met privately to discuss the meeting with the Russians in the days before it happened. If true, that would potentially be a big deal for two reasons — if collusion was discussed, it would go right to the heart of Mueller’s investigation. And if Rick Gates was involved, that’s dangerous for Team Trump since Gates is already cooperating with Mueller on the Manafort case.
But that second meeting never happened, says Rudy. Total fiction. Reporters have looked into it but haven’t written anything about it because they can’t substantiate it. Okay, but then … why would Rudy bring it up on national television? Why try to “get ahead of a story” on national television that isn’t even a story, knowing that Trump’s critics will suddenly start buzzing about the possibility of a second meeting and even more deliberate collusion by the campaign? Is there some eight-dimensional red-herring chess that he’s playing?
Naturally his response left the “Outnumbered” crew even more confused. (Watch the full clip by clicking the link up top.) “I don’t think any of that really addresses the question of why you would say he wasn’t at the meeting” to CNN, Melissa Francis said to Giuliani, following up. “I understand those two meetings that you just set out there, but that doesn’t explain why you’re saying he wasn’t there. Who asked if he was there? No when asked if he was there.” Yeah, I don’t know. What is Rudy doing?
I’m leaning towards “deliberate obfuscation strategy” as an explanation but I’m open to the theory that associating with Trump is now so bad for business in various industries that he just can’t find a professional PR firm willing to work for him. He’s stuck with JV-ers like Giuliani and other lackeys.