Rudy’s getting a bad rap about this although there’s no denying the truth of Ken White’s point:
Giuliani really has a talent for putting defense arguments as unconvincingly, unappealingly, and suspiciously as possible.
If his son were a Manhattan gynecologist he’d go around saying “my boy spends his days fingering women near the park.”
— IncitementToResurrectionHat (@Popehat) August 19, 2018
He was on “Meet the Press” yesterday bantering with Chuck Todd about whether Trump should do an interview with Mueller. Why not just do it and tell the truth, asked Todd? Because it’s not that simple, countered Rudy. Truth is truth, replied Todd! To which Rudy, glowering, said, “You can’t handle the truth.”
No, wait. I lapsed into a “A Few Good Men” for a second. Here’s Rudy:
“Truth isn’t truth” is up there with “Alternative facts” and “What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening” as pithy summaries of TrumpWorld’s gaslighting habit. Todd recognized it immediately too, noting that Rudy’s line was apt to turn into a “bad meme.” Which is exactly what it became on social media, within an hour of the show airing. Rudy himself took to social media this morning to try to clean it up after the requisite scolding from Trump antagonists:
Truth exists and truth matters. Truth has always been the touchstone of our country’s justice system and political life. People who lie are held accountable. If we are untethered to truth, our justice system cannot function and a society based on the rule of law dissolves.
— James Comey (@Comey) August 19, 2018
Since proven leaker Comey is now sanctimoniously lecturing us on truth, I can say sometimes the truth is clear it’s the opposite of what Jim Coney is saying. His disgraceful performance with the FBI makes him the last person who should pontificate on truth.
— Rudy W. Giuliani (@RudyGiuliani) August 20, 2018
My statement was not meant as a pontification on moral theology but one referring to the situation where two people make precisely contradictory statements, the classic “he said,she said” puzzle. Sometimes further inquiry can reveal the truth other times it doesn’t.
— Rudy W. Giuliani (@RudyGiuliani) August 20, 2018
Giuliani’s point was clear enough in his exchange with Todd, and it says a lot about the current media ecosphere that the host of “Meet the Press” would sidetrack an interview to muse about “meme-able” soundbites rather than focus on what his intentions. Rudy was saying what any defense lawyer would say: You’re a sucker to talk to the cops, even if you have every intention of telling them the truth. There’s no guarantee they’ll believe you, particularly if your account is contradicted by someone else’s. You might even say something entirely truthful that ends up inadvertently incriminating you because it happens to support a suspicion the police have independently formed. It’s especially dangerous to try to tell the truth to a federal officer since lying to one is a criminal offense; make an honest mistake in remembering details and you might get indicted depending upon how material that mistake is. “Truth isn’t truth” is a weird, Orwellian line but if you tweak the quotation marks a bit it makes more sense. Truth isn’t “truth” — that is, the actual truth isn’t necessarily what the state comes to believe is “the truth.”
All of this is conventional wisdom among civil libertarians, and really among most educated people. Yet when it comes to Trump and Russiagate, the smirking line among many critics right now vis-a-vis Trump’s reluctance to sit down with Mueller is “You have nothing to fear from talking to prosecutors unless you have something to hide.”
I think it’s fair to say, as Stephen Hayes does, that it’s unlikely that Mueller would try to indict the sitting president of the United States for “lying” to federal officials just because his account of a conversation didn’t match up with James Comey’s. “Truth isn’t truth” is a much stronger point in defense of a criminal suspect who’s powerless than it is the most powerful man in the world, with a phalanx of lawyers around him. But it’s an inevitable result of the narrative Trump and Rudy have spent the past four months constructing: If Russiagate is a witch hunt being conducted by 17 partisan Democrats in Mueller’s office eager to end Trump’s presidency, how could he ever expect a fair shake in an interview with them? They won’t believe the truth even if they hear it.
In fact, in context, the most absurd position Rudy’s taken lately isn’t that “truth isn’t truth” but that he and Trump are happy to chat with Mueller about collusion (just not obstruction of justice). If the probe is a witch hunt engineered by the “deep state” to bring him down, why the hell would he talk to Mueller about collusion or anything else? The contradiction is ridiculous.
Another problem with giving Rudy the benefit of the doubt on “truth isn’t truth” is that he might turn around at any moment and lie his balls off, suggesting that maybe he means it literally — that there’s no such thing as objective truth. Yesterday, in this same interview with Todd, he claimed that Don Jr and the other Trump staffers who met with the Russian lawyer at Trump Tower in 2016 had no idea she was there on behalf of the Russian government. That’s an out-and-out lie, and a weird one since the public has known the truth for more than a year. Rob Goldstone, who arranged the meeting, emailed Don Jr beforehand to pitch him on it and explicitly said that the dirt on Clinton was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” To which Junior replied, “I love it.” Remember? The Times story that reported that was sort of a big deal for many weeks last summer. You’re left to wonder, is Giuliani afraid that Mueller has trouble distinguishing the truth from “the truth” or is he afraid that Trump does?