Tapper: “But why do think Mitt Romney is a hypocrite if he
Giuliani: “Because Mitt Romney did things very similar to
“Taking information from Russians?”
“No, no. There's nothing -- there's nothing wrong with taking information from
“There's nothing wrong with taking information...”
“It depends on where it came from. It depends on where it came from. You're
assuming that the giving of information is a campaign contribution. Read the
“The report says, we can't conclude that, because the law is pretty much
against that. Do you think -- people get information from this person, that
person, this person….”
“So you would -- you would have accepted information from Russians against a
client -- against a candidate if you were running in the presidential election?”
“I probably -- I probably wouldn't. I wasn't asked. I would have advised, just
out of excess of caution, don't do it. I will give you another thing, though….”
“But you're saying -- but you're saying there is nothing wrong with doing that.
You -- I mean, that...”
When France fell to the Nazis in 1940, few
spectacles were as mortifying to the nation’s patriots as Marshal Philippe Petain acting as head of the new puppet Vichy regime.
Parents who had once named their children after the general who had saved his
country through victory at Verdun recoiled as he collaborated with Hitler’s
henchmen, assisting in rounding up the nation’s Jews. The defender of France’s
security was now giving a hand to its greatest menace.
More than a few Americans are experiencing that same
visceral shock—a compound of disappointment, sadness and rage—at the ghastly
public metamorphosis of Rudy Giuliani.
In the 1980s and 1990s, he had made his mark in the cultural, media and
financial capital of the United States—undermining the rule of mob capos and
Wall Street pirates as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York,
bringing down crime as Gotham’s Mayor, and, at the conclusion of his two terms
in office, responding to the 9/11 attacks with sure-footed leadership.
“America’s Mayor,” he was lionized by Oprah Winfrey.
If Giuliani demanded loyalty in those years, he also
inspired it. But now, his aides and admirers are entitled to ask what happened
to turn him into the splenetic, often unhinged legal pit bull for Donald Trump.
Defense rather than prosecution has not proven a
comfortable fit for Giuliani. Inconsistencies, gaffes, and questionable
readings of the law have been the order of the day, calling into account not
just his integrity but even his competence, including:
*saying, “Truth isn’t truth”;
*complaining about “Stormtrooper” tactics used in
raiding the offices of former Trump personal lawyer Michael Cohen when he
himself as U.S. Attorney ordered very public “perp walks” for Wall Street execs
*claiming Cohen had “lied all his life,” only weeks
after saying he was “honest”;
*denying that Donald Trump Jr. knew he was meeting
with Russian government representatives at Trump Tower, when publicly available
e-mail messages demonstrated he was;
*claiming Trump was “immune” from subpoenas by
special counsel Robert Mueller, when Supreme Court decisions related to Richard
Nixon and Bill Clinton indicated the contrary.
Like Petain, Giuliani’s executive ability and
judgment may have atrophied through inactivity, but disquieting moral flaws had
also been present in each for a while. With Petain, it was anti-Semitism; with
Giuliani, it was vindictiveness toward anyone who disagreed with, let alone crossed, him.
This has not gone unnoticed by a number of people
who once thought the world of Trump, such as neoconservative commentator Max
Boot: “One can only imagine what Mayor Giuliani would have said if someone had
called the cops ‘stormtroopers’ — the epithet that he has now applied to his
former law-enforcement colleagues who are investigating the president’s
The ex-mayor’s deterioration, which began in earnest
with his bulging-eyed, wildly gesticulating denunciation of Hillary Clinton at
the 2016 GOP convention, only worsened during his interview with Jake Tapper.
Those latter remarks cannot be dismissed simply as a
lawyer providing his client with his constitutional right to a vigorous
defense, or even as an exercise in spin characteristic of this era of hyperpartisanship.
Rather, they lay down a marker for future Russian interference with the 2020
Foreign interference in American affairs is hardly
an example simply of political hardball, but instead represents a threat
recognized even as the U.S. Constitution was being debated, according to Matt Ford in The New Republic:
“In the late eighteenth century, the Founding
Fathers feared the possibility that corrupt foreign influence would subvert
American institutions more than almost any other potential threat to the early
republic. They worried that the nation’s future leaders would be more
interested in obtaining and holding power than in sustaining the values of a
healthy nation. By seeking to turn elections into a playground for foreign
powers, Giuliani and Trump have proven them right.”
To put this in context, remember this: as recently
as two years ago, even Trump at his then-most brazen felt compelled to change
the motive of son Don Jr.’s meeting with Russians at Trump Tower from an
attempt to get damaging information about Ms. Clinton to adoption procedures.
Now, Giuliani is saying that even the scrounging for dirt would not have been a
Please take note of another aspect of that remark: a
statement from the White House or even the wider Republican Party that he
misspoke. In other words: it’s all okay by them. That contrasts with this past
January, when The New York Times reported that Trump aides
were “exasperated” with Giuliani for allowing that Trump may have been involved
in talks over building Trump Tower in Moscow all the way to Election Day in
2016. (Perhaps not coincidentally, Giuliani tried to walk back his statement.)
Yet this follows a pattern in which Giuliani has argued
that something would not be “a crime” after the White House had spent months
denying that such a situation had occurred. Also in 2018, Giuliani had claimed no
crime would have been entailed in any payoffs to ensure Stormy Daniels’ and Karen
McDougal’s silence about their alleged affairs with Trump.
Previously, I identified Giuliani as a member of Trump’s “pig pen.” But it is
bone-chilling to consider how this relationship developed. With his loud
braying about loyalty and his electoral claim that he could shoot a man in the
streets and still retain his supporters, the President has developed a
Capone-like brazenness, practically daring to be caught.
In effect, then, Giuliani has devolved from boss
nemesis of the Eighties to boss mouthpiece today. He has become everything that
he once denounced and battled with every fiber of his being.
When Giuliani and Trump rose to fame in New York in
the 1980s, they didn’t seem particularly close. Arguably, their personalities
even diverged, with Giuliani eyeing his climb from crusading prosecutor to
elective office with utmost seriousness while Trump cultivated an image as a
fabulously rich playboy developer. That makes their current relationship all
the more curious.
There are those who would say that the Giuliani we
know today was really there all along. “Rudy’s demeanor left a trail of
resentment among the dozens of federal judges in Manhattan, many of whom had
worked in that U.S. attorney’s office,” former FBI Director James Comey wrote
in his memoir, A Higher Loyalty. “They thought he made the office about one
person, himself, and used publicity about his cases as a way to foster his
political ambitions rather than doing justice.”
Furthermore, a 2005 book edited by my college
classmate and friend Rob Polner, America's Mayor: The Hidden History of Rudy Giuliani's New York, catalogued the less praiseworthy aspects of the
Giuliani mayoralty. In what seems increasingly like prophecy, it warned that,
given his track record, his already-apparent attempt to reach higher office
should be regarded with extreme caution.
Where did it all go wrong for Giuliani? Early polls
in the 2008 campaign showed him as the GOP front-runner, but he never gained
traction with the party’s base, which had less and less use for a Northeastern
regarded not just as part of a governmental system they regarded with suspicion
but even as a “moderate.” (When he left his second wife, he stayed for six months in a midtown apartment lent by two gay friends.)
His consulting work, an increasingly common means
for Presidential contenders to bide one’s time for future office by fattening
the wallet, left his legal skills rusty. Actually, it did far worse, according
to Andrew Kirtzman, a former New York journalist and current president of an
eponymous bipartisan political consulting firm. In a May 2018 interview with Isaac Chotiner of Slate, Kirtzman, author of Rudy Giuliani: Emperor of the City, noted: “He took a whole bunch of
clients who were foreign dictators, and others who were unsavory, and he geared
his efforts towards making money and also playing in a sketchy international
Much of the GOP on Capitol Hill, faced with Trump’s
serial mendacity, have maintained an embarrassed silence. Not Giuliani. He has
impugned the motives of accusers on questionable evidence and excused the
One question arises: Why has he become such a Trump
lapdog? Why has he so aggressively filled a post that others avoided because of
the necessity of defending an undisciplined, disobedient client?
Is it because Giuliani couldn’t resist being part of
the political conversation, even if it meant he would not get a coveted post
like Attorney-General or Secretary of Homeland Security? Did he need the money
to pay for what surely will be an expensive divorce from his third wife?
I suspect that something else may be involved. Whether
parading in front of the cameras as a prosecutor, haranguing opponents at City
Hall, or embarking on an extramarital affair, Giuliani has been bent on proving
he is an alpha male.
But after his good-soldier appearances on Trump’s
behalf in the 2016 campaign after the “Access Hollywood” tape—when all other
surrogates for the candidates canceled their weekend TV appearances—Trump
dressed down Giuliani in front of staffers for being too apologetic.
never seen a worse defense of me in my life,” Trump raged, according to Bob
Woodward’s Fear: Trump in the White House. “They took
your diaper off right there. You're like a little baby that needed to be
changed. When are you going to be a man?" Then, moving in for the kill
with the ultimate Trump putdown: “You’re weak, Rudy. You lost it.”
For all his willful ignorance about public policy,
Trump has honed an unerring instinct in his professional dealings with World
Wrestling Entertainment that has made him a dangerous wielder of power: how to psychically emasculate someone, even a
politician like Giuliani with experience he could not match. That humiliation
ritual worked to perfection with Giuliani, who has never apologized for any
Trump action since.
Like France’s Third Republic—the regime that fell,
giving way to Petain—21st-century America has been rendered
vulnerable by corruption, political polarization, and economic dislocation.
Particularly on the GOP side, it is a landscape marked by equal parts fear and
opportunism, with longtime political operatives like Giuliani betting that by collaborating with Trump, they
will continue to make their mark in public life with no consequences for
Giuliani and his like had better think again about
what it means to deal with a capricious head of government ready to change his
mind and his loyalty on the merest whim. One man who could tell him about what can ensue would be Lord
Hastings, facing death at the hands of the man he had once foolishly given his
allegiance to in Shakespeare’s Richard
momentary grace of mortal men,
we more hope for than the grace of God!
builds his hope in air of your good looks
like a drunken sailor on a mast,
with every nod to tumble down
the fatal bowels of the deep.”
accompanying photo of Rudy Giuliani was taken by Gage Skidmore at an August
2016 immigration policy speech hosted by Donald Trump in Phoenix, Arizona.)