Here’s how you get from Russian election meddling to North Korean meddling on a Fox News interview couch.
We’ve reached the point in this story where the lawyer defending the President in a possible obstruction or conspiracy case about possible election meddling and collusion with agents in one country is making bombshell foreign policy pronouncements about another country.
In fact, Rudy Giuliani, who once coveted a high-level role in the administration and is now part of President Donald Trump’s legal effort, was arguing that Trump’s work on foreign policy is being distracted by special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russian election meddling investigation.
Giuliani’s argument, essentially, is that Trump is too busy for a “silly” deposition by Mueller.
“The President of the United States,” said Giuliani, “is getting ready to negotiate one of our historic agreements since opening of China, and we got Kim Jong Un impressed enough to be releasing three prisoners today, and I have got to go there and [Trump lawyer] Jay Sekulow and … we have to go there and prepare him for this silly deposition about a case in which he supposedly colluded with the Russians, and there is no evidence of that. Everybody forgets the basis of the case is dead. Sessions should step in and close it. And say enough’s enough.”
There you go!
Attorney General Jeff Sessions should stop the Russia investigation because North Korea.
Except that’s not really the way things work.
There’s no doubt that North Korea is at the negotiating table in a way it has not been in recent years. And Trump deserves some credit for that? Absolutely.
But the strange development in Giuliani’s appearance is that the lawyer advising the President in a probe that has led to guilty pleas and indictments is arguing the President shouldn’t answer “silly” questions because it hurts his ability to impress Kim Jong Un.
The underlying argument here is the notion from Giuliani that the Russia investigation is getting in the way of Trump’s day job, which is being President.
It’s not a new argument.
Trump did much the same when he tweeted Wednesday about all the other things going on in his world besides the Russia investigation.
“There was no Collusion (it is a Hoax) and there is no Obstruction of Justice (that is a setup & trap),” Trump tweeted Wednesday. “What there is is Negotiations going on with North Korea over Nuclear War, Negotiations going on with China over Trade Deficits, Negotiations on NAFTA, and much more. Witch Hunt!”
The irony is that in the same interview in which Giuliani said a deposition would be silly, he confirmed, essentially, that both Trump and White House press secretary Sarah Sanders had said things that weren’t true about the hush money Michael Cohen paid to adult film actress Stormy Daniels to keep her quiet about an alleged affair with Trump a decade ago. They both said Trump didn’t know about the payment by Cohen. Turns out, Trump reimbursed Cohen for it. The President’s aides say Daniels’ claims are false despite the payment.
Obviously, the Cohen matter is distinct from the Russia investigation. But it’s emblematic of the larger problems with truth that this White House encounters on a daily basis.
The other issue is that Giuliani is, essentially, clouding the North Korea developments with the Russia investigation. If a new detente with North Korea comes to be, the President will not likely want it associated with possible election meddling.
But the strangest and most alarming thing is that the President’s adviser in a legal matter seems to have inside knowledge about high-level talks with North Korea.
The release of those three prisoners had not been formally announced when Giuliani made his comment. It still hasn’t. CNN has been reporting on the issue, and while there are murmurs about their release, it’s not at all clear it has happened.
“As everybody is aware, the past Administration has long been asking for three hostages to be released from a North Korean Labor camp, but to no avail. Stay tuned!,” Trump tweeted Wednesday night.
That’s not the same as saying they would be released today, as Giuliani did. If the prisoners are released and it presages the promised meeting between Trump and Kim Jong Un, that will be a positive development.
That the first affirmative word of their release came from the President’s Russia lawyer and not someone working on North Korea or even national security matters with him will remain very weird.
And it should probably have nothing to do with the Russia investigation.