He issued a statement this afternoon, as promised by POTUS this morning, which Robert George describes this way: “Rudy Giuliani doing damage control on Donald Trump’s damage control of Rudy Giuliani’s damage control on Donald Trump’s damage control.”

Which is accurate. That’s a perfectly accurate description of where we are right now. George could have added “on Michael Cohen’s damage control” at the end, in fact.

Over/under on when Rudy departs Team Trump: Memorial Day.

First:

There is no campaign violation. The payment was made to resolve a personal and false allegation in order to protect the President’s family. It would have been done in any event, whether he was a candidate or not.

Second:

My references to timing were not describing my understanding of the President’s knowledge, but instead, my understanding of these matters.

Third:

It is undisputed that the President’s dismissal of former Director Comey – an inferior executive officer – was clearly within his Article II power. Recent revelations about former Director Comey further confirm the wisdom of the President’s decision, which was plainly in the best interests of our nation.

He made the first point on “Fox & Friends” yesterday morning. It’s the essence of Trump’s defense: If the payment to Daniels was made for personal reasons, not to influence the election, then it’s not a campaign contribution and no laws were broken. It was smart of Rudy to stress that on F&F. It was not, not, not smart of Rudy to then contradict that point in the same interview, literally three minutes later, by marveling about what might have happened if news of the Daniels affair had broken in mid-October 2016. If the payment has nothing to do with the election, don’t publicly gawk at the damage it might have done to POTUS’s electoral chances.

The second point is cryptic but I think igoes back to what I said in the last post about Cohen being PO’d at Rudy and Trump. Rudy’s media tour this week was all about claiming that Trump knew nothing of the payment to Daniels. He didn’t even know that he was reimbursing Cohen for it! He was paying Cohen a monthly, ahem, “retainer” and had no idea that Cohen was using it for reimbursement. If that were true (it isn’t), it would leave Cohen all alone on the hook for this entire mess. Cohen probably and understandably resented the idea that Trump was some babe in the woods who had no idea what was going on and may have threatened privately to tell all about that, leading Trump and Rudy to back down with this new statement. Or, even worse, Trump might know that there’s some evidence out there proving that he *did* know all along about the payment and where it came from, in which case Rudy’s guilty of telling a bunch of soon-to-be-exposed lies on TV this week. So here’s the climbdown. Rudy’s description of the timing of the reimbursement was his understanding of what happened — but maybe not Trump’s understanding.

The third point goes back to something he said in the original “Hannity” interview on Wednesday night, when he admitted that Trump fired Comey because he was frustrated that Comey wouldn’t say publicly that POTUS wasn’t a target of the Russiagate investigation. There was some oohing and ahhing about that on media Twitter, but I’m not sure why. Trump admitted a year ago on TV to Lester Holt that the Russia probe was part of his reasoning in firing Comey. We’ve known since September that the original termination letter drafted by Trump to Comey cited his refusal to say that Trump wasn’t under investigation as one of the reasons for his firing. The letter that Trump *did* end up sending Comey also made a point of noting that Comey had told him privately three times that he wasn’t being investigated. This isn’t some big secret. The “official” reason for Comey’s firing, that Trump was unhappy with how he handled the Hillary Emailgate thing that ended up helping him win the presidency, is ridiculous. No one believes it and no one ever has.

Expect a clarification of this clarification clarifying his prior remarks from Rudy sometime this weekend, I’d guess. In the meantime, a related question to ponder: What’s the point of having a daily White House press briefing if Sarah Sanders has no idea what’s going on? Someone said on Scarborough’s show this morning that the briefing should be shut down if Sanders is just going to lie all the time, but if that’s what was happening, there would still be value to the process. If the press secretary is *deliberately* misleading people, having the press grill her to try to tease out the truth or confront her with contrary facts is worth doing.

But what if the press secretary isn’t misleading people? What if she’s being misled just like they are, in which case literally no one in the room knows what the truth is and isn’t?

The night before, [Sanders] had learned that Trump had — contrary to Sanders’ past assertions — reimbursed his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, for the $130,000 hush payment to porn star Stormy Daniels 11 days before the 2016 election.

How did she learn that troubling fact? The same way the rest of us did: By watching former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani on Sean Hannity’s show on the Fox News channel.

Talk about a gut punch.

“We give the very best information that we have at the time” has become Sanders’s go-to way of saying “I didn’t know what I was saying was false when I said it.” And here’s the thing: She’s almost certainly telling the truth about that. The left hates Sanders because they think anyone associated with Trump is evil but I don’t think most of the press corps hates her. To the contrary, I think they sympathize with her, which helps explain why so many complained about the mean shots taken at her at the WHCD. Because Trump changes his positions, and his stories, on things so often, there’s no way for Sanders to stay in the loop. Even Trump’s other lawyers apparently weren’t in the loop on his and Rudy’s strategy session before the “Hannity” appearance. In a traditional White House, she’d meet daily with the president and the two would make sure they’re on the same page with the message they want to put out. In Trump’s White House, he does what he wants to do and Sanders tries to clean up the mess as best she can. Her credibility gets shredded, not because she’s being willfully deceptive (well, not always) but because she’s getting blindsided by her boss regularly. Reporters genuinely feel bad for her, I suspect.

But be that as it may, if she doesn’t know what’s going on in the building, why hold the briefing? Or rather, why let anyone else but Trump himself hold it?