Ukraine

Rudy Is the World’s Most Expensive Free Lawyer

September 23, 2019
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The mayor of Crazy Town, USA. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

It’s been an insane week for Rudy Giuliani, even by Rudy Giuliani standards. Which are themselves very insane.

The week began with more news of his epic third divorce in the New York Times, which included such details as Rudy spending “$7,131 on fountain pens and another $12,012 on cigars.”

Then things got really crazy at the end of the week when Whistleblower-gate (or whatever we’re calling it) dropped and Team Trump kicked the obfuscation into high gear, thus sending the world’s most expensive free lawyer out to do his wacky, boozy uncle shtick on the cable news show circuit so he could spread just enough crazy around in the hopes that the base would scratch their heads and wonder if maybe the real victim in all of this news was Donald J. Trump.

Say what you will about Rudy, but he manages to pollute the zeitgeist with just enough chaos to change the conversation. Rudy has discovered how to say the quiet part loud and somehow use that to defuse the president’s crimes and misdemeanors. Also—and this may be beside the point—he does wacky, boozy uncle bit with aplomb.

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I’ve never really bought into the idea that Team Trump plays seven-dimensional chess. Or even one-dimensional checkers. But I’m starting to suspect that Rudy’s nutty television antics are actually intentional.

Take, for example, the timing: They only trot out Uncle Rudy when really bad scandals break, the kind that would ruin any other politician but are just another Thursday in Trumpworld. When Trumpworld was worried about what Robert Mueller would find, Rudy was out there saying “Mueller should be investigated for destruction of evidence for allowing those text messages from Strzok to be erased, messages that would show the state of mind and tactics of his lead anti-Trump FBI agent at the start of his probe.”

Um, wut?

During the rocky transition period before Trump was sworn in, Rudy broke out the real cray and mused to George Stephanopoulos about possibly prosecuting Hillary. And then there was the time that Rudy said he didn’t see Hillary Clinton on 9/11—“but I heard her say one day she was there that day. I was there that day, I don’t remember seeing Hillary Clinton there.” Oops.

This is kind of his move.

So no one should have been surprised when Rudy went on Chris Cuomo’s show and immediately contradicted himself about asking for Ukraine to investigate Hunter Biden. Then on Sunday he went on Fox and complained that Democrats were involved with corruption in Ukraine. Rudy also floated the idea that maybe Joe Biden was involved with getting money from China, I mean if you’re just making things up why not make all the things up?

Every time I see Rudy on TV I think about Rudy’s October surprise. Remember that? On October 26, 2016, Rudy went on Fox and told Marth MacCallum, “I do think that all of these revelations about Hillary Clinton are beginning to have an impact. [Trump’s] got a surprise or two that you’re going to hear about in the next two days.”

And then two days later—as if Rudy had known something all along, as if he was getting leaks from the New York City FBI office—the Comey letter dropped. Which included the words: “learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation.” As Nate Silver has illustrated pretty conclusively, this letter “upended the news cycle and soon halved Clinton’s lead in the polls, imperiling her position in the Electoral College.”

Silver’s conclusion is pretty unequivocal, for a data guy: “Hillary Clinton would probably be president if FBI Director James Comey had not sent a letter to Congress on Oct. 28.”


But wait, there’s more! On Monday, America’s least-favorite boozy uncle with gingivitis went on Maria Bartiromo’s Fox Business show and proceeded to have the following exchange:

BARTIROMO: Did the president threaten to cut off aid to Ukraine?

GIULIANI: No, no. That was a false story.

BARTIROMO: 100 percent?

GIULIANI: Well I can’t tell you if it’s 100 percent.

Now, I’m going to go out on a limb here and postulate that if history is any guide the print out of Trump’s conversation with the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, is goanna contain wacky, wild, some might say high crimes-ish stuff.

Of course, we may never see that transcript. After all, we never saw the unredacted Mueller report, either. But we do know that if Rudy is out there burning up the airwaves he’s doing it because there’s something big and bad that Trump is doing.

When Rudy says crazy stuff, normal people hear it and disregard it. But it filters its way into the mainstream media, sometime through pundits mocking it; sometimes through pro-Trump outlets regurgitating it; sometimes through bad-faith reporting.

There’s reason that Team Trump keeps trotting Rudy out there on television. Because he may be a fool. He be ridiculous. He may be lying. He may be destroying his own legacy as an important figure during a time of national crisis.

But it works.

Molly Jong-Fast

Molly Jong-Fast is a contributor to The Bulwark and the author of three books. Follow her on Twitter @MollyJongFast.