Literally no one believes this. Even MAGA commentators who have to pretend to believe it will do so only half-heartedly, given how preposterous it is.

But I suppose Trump has no choice except to make this the party line since admitting that he was in fact directing Giuliani carries all sorts of risk, especially now that Rudy’s being looked at by the DOJ. The safe play at this stage of the impeachment process is to put as much distance as possible between the president and his point men on the Ukraine matter. The GOP’s core defense to Schiff’s hearings was that most of the witnesses had no firsthand knowledge of what Trump wanted, so therefore there’s no hard proof that he was involved. Their fallback defense, if it comes to it, will be that Rudy and Mulvaney and Sondland all somehow went rogue and carried out a quid pro quo which the president was never seeking and never instructed them to do.

Somehow they collectively got it in their funny ol’ heads that he wanted them to shake down the Ukrainians for Biden dirt in exchange for military aid even though he wanted no such thing.

Donald Trump denied directing Rudy Giuliani to go to Ukraine to look for dirt on his political rivals, in an interview with former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly.

“No, I didn’t direct him, but he is a warrior, he is a warrior,” Trump told O’Reilly in an interview streamed on the internet on Tuesday…

Asked by O’Reilly what Giuliani was doing in Ukraine, Trump said “you have to ask that to Rudy.”

“Rudy has other clients, other than me,” Trump said. “He’s done a lot of work in Ukraine over the years.”

Rudy does have lots of other clients, some of them dubious, that much is true. The thing about Trump trying to get an exculpatory story straight with Giuliani, though, is that Rudy often can’t get his own story straight. And he *loves* to chatter to reporters, way more than a man with so much sensitive business should. Which is why it took me all of two minutes of googling to find a news story in which he flatly admits that Trump knows and approves of what he’s doing in Ukraine. May 9, the New York Times:

“We’re not meddling in an election, we’re meddling in an investigation, which we have a right to do,” Mr. Giuliani said in an interview on Thursday when asked about the parallel to the special counsel’s inquiry.

“There’s nothing illegal about it,” he said. “Somebody could say it’s improper. And this isn’t foreign policy — I’m asking them to do an investigation that they’re doing already and that other people are telling them to stop. And I’m going to give them reasons why they shouldn’t stop it because that information will be very, very helpful to my client, and may turn out to be helpful to my government.”…

He said his efforts in Ukraine have the full support of Mr. Trump. He declined to say specifically whether he had briefed him on the planned meeting with Mr. Zelensky, but added, “He basically knows what I’m doing, sure, as his lawyer.”

He’s spent six months reminding people that everything he’s done, he’s done for his “client.” That’s a bad soundbite in two ways, not only by implying coordination with Trump but by suggesting that his efforts in Ukraine were for Trump’s personal benefit, not for the public interest in rooting out corruption by former VP Joe Biden.

Meanwhile, has Trump forgotten that … he brought up Giuliani during his July 25 phone call with Zelensky? And specifically told Zelensky that he’d direct Rudy to contact him?

“Rudy very much knows what’s happening.”

Anyway, even though it’s obviously false, the new narrative that Giuliani *wasn’t* acting at Trump’s behest will be agreeable to both of them. Trump obviously wants Rudy to take the fall and it’s in Rudy’s interest to take that fall for the president given his mounting criminal jeopardy. His best bet at escaping legal liability at this point may be a presidential pardon. Continue to do what Trump needs him to do, up to and including lying by insisting that he wasn’t being directed in his Ukraine work, and that pardon becomes all the more likely. Such are the calculations a top “shadow diplomat” in the Trump administration has to make.

Here’s a dejected-sounding Chris Coons marveling at how “striking” and “disheartening” it is that Schiff’s hearings haven’t moved public opinion at all. If he’s depressed by that, wait until he sees the polls in a few weeks showing the public split 50/50 on whether they believe Trump directed Rudy on the Ukraine business or not.