This is of a piece with Trump allegedly telling Lesley Stahl that he attacks the media relentlessly so that people will be less likely to believe them when they break bad news about him. It’s not that he’s always wrong in complaining “fake news,” just like he’s not wrong to worry about partisan motives potentially at work in a years-long DOJ investigation of a sitting president. But in both cases the complaints are strategic: They’re designed to preemptively discredit and delegitimize a dangerous enemy who might turn up legitimate evidence of wrongdoing that won’t be nearly as easy to discredit. With the media, it’s about building a case that they’re a fundamentally unreliable narrator. With Mueller, it’s about laying the predicate to move for a mistrial in the court of public opinion if he ends up accusing Trump of a crime.
It’s weird that Giuliani would be gaming out a PR war over impeachment given that the refrain from the White House is always that POTUS has done nothing wrong. But (a) it wouldn’t be a Rudy interview without a surprising, damaging admission, (b) Giuliani probably suspects, correctly, that he hasn’t gotten the full truth from Trump and therefore can’t be sure what Mueller might have on him, and (c) if the investigation is “rigged,” as he insists elsewhere here, then logically one would expect an unfavorable outcome. He’s not saying that legit grounds for impeachment exist, rather hinting that they’ll be manufactured somehow by the dastardly Robert Mueller.
It’s been obvious from practically the moment Giuliani joined Trump’s legal team that he wasn’t there to do law as much as PR, though. Here’s what I wrote the morning after he admitted on Hannity’s show that Trump had indeed reimbursed Michael Cohen for the Stormy Daniels payment, a few weeks before Spygate blew up:
There’s an old saying among litigators. When the facts are on your side, pound the facts; when the law is on your side, pound the law; and when neither is on your side, pound the table. Maybe Giuliani has spent the last few weeks becoming acquainted with the facts and law on Trump’s side annnnnnnd has concluded that it’s table-pounding time. That would explain his surprise admission last night about Trump reimbursing Michael Cohen for the Stormy Daniels payment. If the facts aren’t on their side, better to admit it now and move past it asap. It would also explain his “stormtroopers” comment about the FBI, which is rough stuff for any politician but shocking coming from a former U.S. Attorney who was (is?) in line to be Attorney General himself. Giuliani might believe that things look sufficiently dire for Trump now that there’s really no legalistic way out of the mess. The way out is political: Double down on the “witch hunt” rhetoric about Mueller, the “stormtrooper”/”deep state” insinuations about the FBI, and the attacks on Sessions and Rosenstein for running a lawless Justice Department. The more successful he and Trump are in convincing righties that this is some sort of slow-motion coup, the harder it’ll be for Republicans in the House and Senate to impeach and remove him.
And now here he is today, all but owning up to the table-pounding strategy. Dan Balz at WaPo weighs the results:
Trump’s efforts have moved public opinion in ways that must cheer the president. Over time, there has been an erosion in support for the Mueller investigation among Republicans. This partisan division will shape the environment whenever Mueller concludes his investigation and particularly if he delivers a report highly critical of the president…
A Quinnipiac University survey taken in April found that 61 percent of Republicans said that the Mueller investigation is unfair, while just 26 percent said it is fair. Early this year, there was closer to an even split among Republicans in their assessment of the investigation, with 46 percent saying then it was not fair.
Unless Mueller takes the unexpected and explosive step of trying to indict Trump, which few experts seem to believe he’ll do, the fate of the Russiagate investigation as far as it concerns the president is in the hands of congressional Republicans. Barring Mueller’s office producing something earth-shaking pointing directly at Trump in colluding with Russia, even if Democrats clean up during the midterms it’s unimaginable that they’ll have enough Republican votes to get to 67 for removal by the Senate following impeachment. Trump and Rudy are running a hard-nosed but effective political play to make the Russiagate investigation so toxic to GOP voters that, when push comes to shove, Senate Republicans would be terrified of voting to remove him even if the evidence of wrongdoing was strong.
I’ll leave you with this to illustrate the point. Here’s Trump frenemy Marco Rubio trying to find an even-handed line on Spygate but not really concealing his skepticism that the feds did anything wrong. If there was an informant in the campaign, he notes, that probably has to do with the number of dubious Russia-friendly people like Carter Page who were associated with it. It’d be outrageous for the FBI to spy on a candidate, but to spy on people suspected of being foreign agents? That’s sort of what the FBI counterintelligence division is for. Anyone think Little Marco would vote to remove Trump, though, if Mueller returned a report accusing him of crimes and a Democratic House impeached him? It’d be a political death wish, something Rubio wouldn’t dare do unless he’d already resolved not to run again for reelection or for president. And it’d be pointless for any Republican to vote to remove unless they somehow had assurances that there were enough votes to make it happen. If he voted to remove and the effort fell short of 67, he’d have a mortal enemy in the White House for years to come. It’s not happening.
As Pres. Trump pushes the unproven claim of an FBI spy in his campaign, Sen. @MarcoRubio says “It appears that there was an investigation, not of the campaign, but of certain individuals who have a history that we should be suspicious of that predate the presidential campaign.” pic.twitter.com/1wNdq1R0zj
— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) May 27, 2018