The strange, wild - but unsurprising - return of political brawler Rudy Giuliani

The former New York mayor has been retained less for his legal skills that his unswerving loyalty to the president 

Andrew Buncombe
New York
Thursday 03 May 2018 18:42
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Giuliani: Trump repaid attorney Stormy Daniels hush money

To most Americans, and certainly for people around the world, Rudolph W Giuliani will be most remembered for what he did, said and how he looked, after the attacks of 9/11.

For some time after the first of the Twin Towers collapsed, some of his colleagues had no idea where he was. It transpired Giuliani had been two blocks from the south tower, and would emerge, walking northwards amid the smoke, his head and arms covered in ash, offering words of comfort where he could.

At a press conference with New York Governor George Pataki a few hours later, he spoke what seemed like truth from the heart.

(Reuters

“The tragedy we’re undergoing right now is something that we’ve had nightmares about,” he said, before being asked how many deaths and injuries there might be. He replied: “The number of casualties, will be more than any of us can bear ultimately.”

Giuliani’s performance in those days won over many of his critics, and provided him with a national and international profile - for a time he was nicknamed “America’s mayor” - that would later lead him to seek the Republican nomination for president. In the 2016 race, he became an early supporter of Donald Trump, spoke at the Republican National Convention and after the reality television star’s victory was frequently talked of as likely cabinet member. As it was, his loyalty did not earn him such a post. He still appeared on cable television, defending the president and his administration, but with no official role. Had Trump forgotten him?

Apparently not. Giuliani is now back, and how. The 73-year-old is heading the Trump legal team seeking to protect the president against the persistent, probing enquiries of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Mueller, who is investigating Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 election and possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and Moscow, has more than 50 questions he wants to put to Trump. He has also let it be known, he is ready to subpoena Trump if he does not agree to be interviewed voluntarily.

The Giuliani who has returned to this battlefield is not the man of 9/11. Rather, it is the brawling, knuckle-dustered political fighter, willing to defend the seemingly indefensible and seemingly sharing the opinion of both his boss and his boss’s former top strategist Steve Bannon, that the best form of defence is to attack someone and keep on attacking until they drop.

Rudy Giuliani says Donald Trump fired James Comey because he wouldn't assure him FBI was not targeting him in Russia probe

On Wednesday night, in an appearance that veered from focussed to freewheeling, he spoke to Fox News’ Sean Hannity for more than half-an-hour, plenty of time in which to make a series of headlines.

Primary among these, was the confirmation that Trump had reimbursed his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, $130,000 for a hush money settlement paid to adult actress Stormy Daniels.

“They funnelled it through a law firm and the president repaid it,” Giuliani said. “He didn’t know about the specifics of it, as far as I know, but he did know about the general arrangement that Michael would take care of things like this.”

Plenty of people thought that Giuliani, pleased to be back in the spotlight, had slipped up and caused trouble for the president. Last month, Trump told reporters on Air Force One he knew nothing about the $130,000 paid to Daniels on the eve of the election.

Daniels’ lawyer Michael Avenatti leapt up on the comments. “This is a stunning revelation, he claimed. “Mr Trump evidently has participated in a felony and there must be serious consequences for his conduct and his lies and deception to the American people.”

But Giuliani did not think he had erred. The same evening, he told the Washington Post Trump had seen his interview with Hannity and was “very pleased”. And as Trump followed up on Thursday morning with a series of three tweets about the payment that appeared to have written under legal guidance, Giuliani was back on Fox News, revelling in the attention and saying that Attorney General Jeff Sessions should terminate Mueller’s inquiry.

He also claimed the payment to Daniels had been partly made to protect the Trump family from a “six year old, false allegation” that Trump had had an extramarital affair. “If we had to defend this as not being a campaign contribution, I think we could do that,” he said. “This is for personal reasons. The was the president had been hurt personally, not politically, personally so much - and the First Lady - by some of the false allegations.”

Not everybody wanted the job that Giuliani now holds. A succession of lawyers, who had counselled Trump to cooperate with Mueller’s probe, have recently parted company with the president.

But it may be Giuliani has been retained less for his legal skills than his loyalty and his willingness to defend Trump down to the wire.

Because, for all the media attention given to Mueller’s probe, Trump knows that just as important as the legal fight is the battle of public perception. Most people by now already have their minds made up about the president, his style and whether or not they are disturbed by the idea of him having sex with an adult actress little more than a year after he married his current and third wife.

Trump’s priority is not simply to prepare for Mueller’s questions, but to undermine the credibility of his entire enquiry. And for that, there is no one better equipped than Rudolph Giuliani.

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