Giuliani: Sure, I've consulted with Manafort on Ukraine

Why does this remind me of the famous Ghostbusters admonition never to cross the streams? I’m sure this is all under control and nothing bad could possibly come of it:

In his quest to rewrite the history of the 2016 election, President Trump’s personal attorney has turned to an unusual source of information: Trump’s imprisoned former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

Rudolph W. Giuliani in recent months has consulted several times with Manafort through the federal prisoner’s lawyer in pursuit of information that would bolster his theory that the real story of 2016 is not Russian interference to elect Trump, but Ukrainian efforts to support Hillary Clinton.

The alliance, which Giuliani acknowledged in an interview this week with The Washington Post, stems from a shared interest in a narrative that undermines the rationale for the special counsel investigation. That inquiry led to Manafort’s imprisonment on tax and financial fraud allegations related to his work in Kiev for the political party of former president Viktor Yanukovych.

Well, let’s not oversell that either. Manafort’s prosecution came from another crossing of the streams between Robert Mueller and previous Department of Justice investigations into Ukrainian corruption. Mueller had the Manafort case drop into his lap; the DoJ had already done most of that work before the 2015-16 campaign ever started, to which he added a couple of more recent charges of obstruction. Mueller took it up under the theory that Manafort might connect Trump to Russian intelligence, which turned out not to be the case at all, as Mueller himself later acknowledged in finding “no evidence” that such connections existed.

Still, Manafort committed crimes enough on his own to make those prosecutions a slam dunk. That should make him radioactive to anyone with hopes of maintaining a political career and their attorneys on that basis alone. Furthermore, Manafort worked for some shady people in Ukraine with agendas of their own, so the basis of his expertise in this area would be of questionable value to partisans. (It turned out to be of zero value to Mueller too, for that matter.) Having Trump’s attorney connect with Manafort on Ukraine creates an indirection connection between corrupt convict and the president, even if Trump didn’t intend to have that connection at all. It’s stunning that Giuliani would create that kind of optic for the purpose of making Hillary Clinton look bad three years after her political career came to an end at Trump’s hands.

What possible purpose exists to overcome all of those issues to make Manafort of any value to Team Trump at all? Even if Giuliani got legit information from his dealings with Manafort, how exactly will he sell it with Manafort’s fingerprints on it? He might as well ask Bernie Madoff to dish up dirt on the Clinton Global Initiative for all the good it would do, and for all the relevance this has. (Note: That’s a joke, folks — Madoff had no connection to the Clintons.)

Still, here’s Giuliani talking all about it:

Giuliani joined Trump’s legal team in April 2018 to help defend the president against special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe, and the former mayor said he launched his own investigation into Ukraine late last year, which led him to consult with Manafort. He said he has not spoken directly to Manafort in two years.

“It was that I believed there was a lot of evidence that the [Democratic National Committee] and the Clinton campaign had a close connection to Ukrainian officials,” Giuliani said, noting that he wasn’t seeking to lay the groundwork for a pardon of Manafort. “It was all about Trump. I don’t think I could exonerate Manafort.”

That should put a spike through any talk of pardoning Manafort, too. Imagine if Giuliani came up with dirt on Hillary or on Joe Biden after this, and then Trump pardoned Manafort out of the blue. It would be Marc Rich on steroids, only this time with a hostile national media.

Currently, Giuliani insists that he doesn’t have to talk to Congress and is busy strategizing ways to protect Trump’s attorney-client privilege. That’s a smart idea. Maybe Giuliani can start by keeping his mouth shut in public. He’s not doing his client any favors by speaking out.

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David Strom 5:21 PM on March 31, 2023