We are now witnessing what happens when a clan of grifters and scoundrels caught in a giant conspiratorial mess begin to turn on each other.
With the recent news that Donald Trump’s former fixer, Michael Cohen, is prepared to tell Special Counsel Robert Mueller that Trump knew of the Trump Tower meeting with connected Russians offering dirt on Hillary Clinton, and the leaking of a recording of Trump and Cohen discussing payment for a story about Trump’s extramarital affair with a Playboy model, Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani hit the TV news show circuit on Sunday to lay out the president’s likely defense should Cohen become a government witness.
And it’s largely based on who comes across as the biggest liar. All of this might be slightly amusing if the fate of the country’s justice system, checks and balances, and democratic stability didn’t hang in the balance.
On CBS News’ Face the Nation, Giuliani told moderator Margaret Brennan that Trump has been too busy to sit down for an interview with Mueller. “We’ve kinda been distracted on all kinds of things,” Giuliani said, among them “our friend Cohen going rogue.”
Giuliani then set out to attack Cohen’s credibility, a central theme he’d repeat throughout his Sunday interviews.
“I don’t see how you can believe Michael Cohen. Michael Cohen is also the guy that taped [Trump] without telling him…To my surprise, he turns out to be almost an instinctual liar,” Giuliani said. “There’s no way this guy’s credibility is gonna withstand four or five witnesses saying the exact opposite.” (The witnesses he’s referring to include Trump’s own son, his son-in-law, and his jailed former campaign manager.)
When Brennan reminded Giuliani that he called Cohen an “honest, honorable lawyer” a few weeks ago, the former mayor played dumb—another theme he repeated throughout the day.
“How did I know? Why would I have not thought he was? I mean, I’ve not had a bad dealing with Michael. I’ve been straight and honest. I didn’t know that he taped conversations surreptitiously. I didn’t know he would grossly violate the attorney-client privilege. I didn’t know he would mislead dozens of reporters and tape ’em all over the place and pretend to them, directly, I’m not recording you,” he said.
Giuliani said he was aware of 183 recorded conversations, of which only one directly involved Trump. (This was the recording leaked to the press.) The others, he said, corroborate what Trump has tweeted—that he wasn’t aware of payments before the elections to hide his extramarital affairs. Cohen made those payments, Giuliani claimed, because he simply loved the president and his wife, Melania.
On Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace played a clip from the interview with ABC last May in which Giuliani called Cohen “honest” and “honorable.”
“Well, here’s what happened,” Giuliani repeated. “I mean, I found out as everyone else did that he was surreptitiously recording his clients, which is a disbarrable offense. Obviously, if I knew that, I never would have said he’s a reputable lawyer, I’d have said he was a scoundrel.”
He added: “Now, I’ve listened, unfortunately, or fortunately for my client’s point of view, to many, many hours of tapes, and the man is a pathological manipulator, liar. I didn’t know that. I didn’t know him well, but I knew nothing bad about Michael Cohen until all of this started happening in the last couple weeks.”
Giuliani claimed, “These tapes completely demonstrate the president did nothing wrong.”
And in case it wasn’t clear by now, Giuliani attacked Cohen’s reputation again, saying: “He’s done so many despicable things, his credibility is not an issue.”
When Wallace asked about Cohen sitting down with Mueller, Giuliani said, “Those tapes are filled with lies.”
“It seems to me his [Cohen’s] default position is to lie. He’s a bad liar,” Giuliani said.
“I should say I feel sorry for him, but nobody will believe me,” he added, accusing Cohen and his lawyer, Lanny Davis, of telling “Clinton-like lies.”
So many lies.