Matt Gaetz: It's, uh, a little weird that Rudy Giuliani is back in Ukraine right now

Not a great sign for Rudy that a Trump crony who’s as tight with the president as Gaetz is went on Trump’s least favorite network to criticize his latest Ukraine trip. Every week brings a new round of stories speculating about whether POTUS is finally ready to send Giuliani packing and rid himself of a loose cannon, but this is the strongest evidence yet that he’s moving that way. Did Trump task Gaetz with putting out the word that TrumpWorld isn’t participating in Giuliani’s new “fact-finding” mission to Ukraine?

Is it even true that TrumpWorld isn’t participating in Giuliani’s new fact-finding mission? Maybe Trump greenlit Rudy’s trip and then set about creating plausible deniability for himself via Gaetz just in case Giuliani ends up committing a raft of crimes while he’s over there. As a Twitter pal suggested, the whole trip may be a way of bolstering the GOP’s “Rudy went rogue” excuse for why so many of his diplomats came to the conclusion that there was a quid pro quo with Ukraine in September.

Note this Daily Beast report, though, about anxiety inside the White House about what Rudy is up to. Trump might know, but not everyone does. Go figure that the president’s aides would be anxious about his attorney continuing to sniff around Ukraine about Burisma while Democrats are digging for impeachment material and the DOJ is investigating Giuliani for various possible criminal offenses.

“I do not see why [any] lawyer would see this as serving the best interests of their client,” said a senior White House official. “Especially now.”

Senior U.S. officials in the State Department and in the national security apparatus were concerned that Giuliani was speaking with politicians in both Budapest and Kiev who have interests in domestic American politics. According to five sources with knowledge of the situation, there is renewed fear that the president’s lawyer is still shopping for dirt about former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter as well as speaking with foreign officials who, against all evidence, have promoted the idea that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 presidential election.

The concerns about Giuliani’s trip to Kiev were so pronounced that they reached officials close to President Volodymyr Zelensky, who were advised by Americans and politicians in Ukraine not to meet with Giuliani when he was in town, according to an individual familiar with those conversations.

It’s very hard to believe that Giuliani would risk creating these sorts of headlines for Trump at this particular moment unless he had the president’s approval in advance. It would be true to form too for Trump to double down on trying to vindicate his theories about Burisma and CrowdStrike even amid impeachment scrutiny; he doesn’t just want to be acquitted at trial, he wants the GOP to insist that he was right all along, which is why toadies like John Kennedy have been doing interviews lately implying that maybe Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election. Trump probably thinks Rudy’s going to return to Washington as a conquering hero, with the smoking gun in hand that proves it was Ukraine, not Russia, that hacked the DNC and John Podesta all along.

Rudy’s ostensible reason for being in Ukraine is that he’s working on a “documentary” about Ukraine for OAN that’s taken him to meet with certain key players in the Burisma matter, like former Ukrainian prosecutors. (Why he’s participating in OAN’s project instead of doing a parallel project for the much more widely watched Fox News is an interesting question.) As always with Giuliani, though, it’s not quite clear how many different hats he’s wearing as he goes about his foreign business. Is he some sort of quasi-journalist in his role for OAN, even though he’s a major player in the Ukraine saga that’s the subject of the report? Or is he acting as the president’s attorney in squeezing people for information? Or both? The Times asked him. Quote: “[L]ike a good lawyer, I am gathering evidence to defend my client against the false charges being leveled against him.” So presumably his “client” does know what he’s doing and approves.

Does his client also know he’s tweeting things like this that appear to confirm there’s an ongoing quid pro quo in which Ukraine doesn’t get certain types of aid from the U.S. unless Trump gets help with the Bidens?

Note the “major obstacle” bit. Here’s another Giuliani tweet from last night:

There is … nothing like that in Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution. This guy frequently sounds genuinely disjointed and yet to some degree he holds the political fate of the president of the United States in his hands. When Gaetz calls his trip to Ukraine “weird,” he’s understating it considerably. Everything Rudy does nowadays is weird.

Although, in his defense, it sounds like the “documentary” will be a humdinger:

It’s not just Zelensky’s office that’s dismayed to find Rudy creeping around Ukraine at a moment when the spotlight on the country is so hot. The U.S. Embassy there is also “shocked,” per BuzzFeed — although you would think that if there’s any lesson U.S. diplomats would have learned from the Ukraine saga by now, it’s that whatever Rudy Giuliani’s up to at a given moment takes precedence inside the White House over what the State Department is doing.

Here’s Gaetz making his notable comment about the “weird” trip. If you think there’s no chance that Trump genuinely is peeved at Rudy, read this Vanity Fair piece from a few days ago about the president’s displeasure when he heard Giuliani joking about having “insurance” against being thrown under the bus. Supposedly Trump cut off Rudy from doing Fox interviews after that. Maybe that explains why OAN rather than Fox was able to land Rudy for a Ukraine documentary. Or maybe that was due to Trump’s annoyance at Fox for supporting him on the air only 98 percent of the time instead of the full 100 percent that OAN gives? Too many vendettas to keep track of.

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