I did not expect the president’s lawyer to have already reached Stage Six of the apologetics over the Cohen/AMI/McDougal matter. (A.k.a. the “I don’t care” stage.) If this is the best Trump’s own defense counsel can do to answer the facts as we know them, the situation must be worse than we thought.
Before you read further, I want you to pause and really absorb the fact that this is coming from Rudolph W. Giuliani, the guy who patented law-‘n-order New York Republicanism back when Trump’s main preoccupation was managing tabloid stories about him and Marla Maples.
Trump insists he is innocent of any related crimes because he never explicitly asked for Cohen or AMI to violate campaign finance law by sitting on stories of his extra-marital affairs. And the president’s current lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, contends that the scandal is overblown entirely.
“Nobody got killed, nobody got robbed… This was not a big crime,” Giuliani told The Daily Beast on Wednesday. He added, sardonically, “I think in two weeks they’ll start with parking tickets that haven’t been paid.”
“Nobody got killed, nobody got robbed.” Journey back in time with me now — back before Rudy became Trump’s weary mouthpiece on his many legal troubles, back before his hapless 2008 run for president, back even before he was the hero of 9/11 and Time’s Person of the Year. Younger readers might not realize it but until 9/11 Giuliani’s claim to fame was as … a crimefighter. He was a federal prosecutor, head of the very same office that just put Michael Cohen away for the McDougal payoff. And then he was mayor of New York, where he made his mark by presiding over a momentous decline in violent crime that continues to this day. His entire professional legacy until those planes hit the Twin Towers was as a man who was uncompromising with lawbreakers.
Specifically, Rudy’s approach to crime was based on the “broken windows theory” of policing, an idea that’s become so celebrated since that it’s entered the vernacular. If small crimes (e.g., the breaking of windows) are tolerated by the authorities, the theory goes, miscreants in the community will take it as a cue that more serious offenses won’t be aggressively prosecuted either. To discourage the latter, you need to first restore order by punishing the former scrupulously. The most famous example during Giuliani’s run as mayor was his crackdown on “squeegee men,” derelicts who approach cars stopped at traffic lights and start washing their windshields in hopes of being given some spare change by the driver. Rudy took flak for going after people who were so poor and powerless, but that’s what the broken windows theory requires. The authorities must show that they’ll keep order, even if that means arresting beggars, so that more serious criminals will know that the neighborhood isn’t safe for them to prey upon. The whole point of the theory is that no crime is “too small” such that it can be safely ignored.
And now here he is 25 years later, shrugging off a felony conviction of the president’s lawyer by his own former office for a shady transaction that may or may not have affected the outcome of the 2016 election on grounds that … nobody got killed. He’s not even bothering with the theory being kicked around by other conservative lawyers, that the McDougal payoff isn’t actually a crime and somehow the U.S. Attorney, Cohen’s lawyers, and the presiding judge all overlooked that fact. I’d be keen to hear Michael Cohen’s — and David Pecker’s, and especially Allen Weisselberg’s — thoughts on whether the broken windows theory also applies to white-collar criminals. Does believing that you can get away with “small crimes,” like conspiring to withhold information from the FEC about an embarrassing campaign contribution, make you more willing to attempt “big crimes” too?
Via Patterico, here’s Giuliani from long ago, when he pretended to care about law enforcement.
Update: Ah, and now here’s the walkback.
CORRECTION: I didn’t say payments were not a big crime. I have said consistently that the Daniels and McDougall payments are not crimes and tweeted a great article yesterday making that point . If it isn’t a witch-hunt why are they pursuing a non-crime.
— Rudy W. Giuliani (@RudyGiuliani) December 14, 2018
The quote — “nobody got killed, nobody got robbed” — makes no sense if Giuliani had claimed there was no crime at all. Obviously he was quoted correctly and is now trying to retcon what he said. But okay: Hopefully his theory that the failure to report the payoffs to McDougal and Stormy Daniels wasn’t a crime because they weren’t campaign contributions in the first place will get its day in court, as that’d be an interesting debate. That argument failed badly as a matter of law in the John Edwards case but there’s no harm trying again.