Less than two weeks after joining President Trump’s legal team last April, Rudy Giuliani let slip to Sean Hannity that his client reimbursed Michael Cohen for the $130,000 he paid Stormy Daniels prior to the 2016 election. This contradicted Trump’s claim that he had no knowledge of the payment, which has since been thoroughly disproven. At the time, the president tried to explain that Giuliani had yet to “get his facts straight” while preaching the need to “learn before you speak.”
Despite a questionable grasp of the facts and a deteriorating understanding of the law, Giuliani has continued to go on cable news to defend the president. Invariably, he does more harm than good, and his spate of appearances on Sunday was no exception. He argued that collusion is not a crime; he said that it’s no big deal if Roger Stone told Trump that WikiLeaks planned to release hacked Democratic emails; he rationalized the president’s lies regarding the pre-election hush money payments by pointing out that he’s “not under oath.”
MSNBC even made a supercut of Giuliani tripping over himself while trying to clear the president.
MSNBC put together a supercut of all the gaffes Giuliani made during a single day of TV interviews on Sunday. They don't fit into a single Twitter video! pic.twitter.com/ch220Hdk4Z
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) December 17, 2018
Why would Giuliani try to rationalize collusion when the president has repeatedly insisted that no such collusion exists? Why would he say it’s OK for the president to have known that WikiLeaks was getting ready to release hacked emails provided by Russia, which was actively trying to install Trump in the White House? Why would he try to downplay the president of the United States lying to the American people? It isn’t because he knows the president is innocent.
One thing federal prosecutors have already concluded is that Trump directed the pre-election hush money payments, and that they were made with the intention of influencing the election. The hard revelations contained within the SDNY’s sentencing memo and subsequent sentencing of Cohen last Wednesday led the president to take up Giuliani’s no-big-deal defense. After months of denying knowledge of the payments, Trump seemed to suddenly acknowledge that he did direct the payments, but that it was fine because Cohen should have known better than to carry out his orders. “I never directed Michael Cohen to break the law,” Trump tweeted. “He was a lawyer and he is supposed to know the law. It is called ‘advice of counsel,’ and a lawyer has great liability if a mistake is made.”
Giuliani was right there with him, telling the Daily Beast that the campaign finance violations that Cohen, American Media, Inc., and the Southern District of New York all say Trump directed were not “big” crimes because “nobody got killed, nobody got robbed.” Two days after Giuliani tried to argue that campaign finance violations were fine because no one died, he tried to walk back the comments. “CORRECTION: I didn’t say payments were not a big crime,” he tweeted. “I have said consistently that the Daniels and McDougall [sic] payments are not crimes and tweeted a great article yesterday making that point. If it isn’t a witch-hunt why are they pursuing a non-crime.”
Despite the typo-ridden arguments Giuliani and Trump have laid out on Twitter, this is not the case. As Harvard Law professor Alex Whiting pointed out the same day as Giuliani’s walk-back tweet, if Trump were to be convicted of the crimes the SDNY seems to have proof he committed, he would be looking at a minimum of close to three years in prison.
Insightful thread👇🏼 on what Donald J. Trump’s likely minimum sentence would be if he were convicted for directing or coordinating Cohen’s two campaign finance felonies (as SDNY basically alleges).
Spoiler: MINIMUM 33 months and quite easily upwards of 51 months (or more). https://t.co/6tAf08Da9o
— Ryan Goodman (@rgoodlaw) December 14, 2018
“I’m disgusted with the Southern District,” Giuliani told George Stephanopoulos on Sunday.
It’s unclear whether Giuliani and Trump actually believe these crimes are not crimes. Trump sure seems to. After all, that’s what Giuliani has been telling him and, as he tweeted last week, he relied on “advice of counsel.” Giuliani may know better, though. When asked by Chris Wallace on Sunday whether he would allow the president to sit down for an interview with Special Counsel Mueller, Giuliani didn’t seem keen to allow his client to exonerate himself. “Over my dead body,” he said before, once again, hedging. “But you know, I could be dead.”