How Terrible a Lawyer is Rudy?

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TPM Reader PB has this idea about what is behind Rudy Giuliani’s big revelation yesterday about the Trump Tower Moscow deal that apparently remained live through the 2016 election.

The last time Giuliani admitted a fact that was not publicly known, it was to get ahead of the Stormy Daniels story before it was disclosed in a likely indictment of Cohen. It seems safe to assume that he is revealing the fact that Trump was negotiating the Trump Tower Moscow deal/bribe in the closing days of the election for the same reason.

Cohen’s office was raided on April 9th and not coincidentally, Giuliani announced as Trump’s new lawyer on April 19th.

Looks to me like Giuliani is trying to construct a firewall here. Admitting the fact that the negotiations were taking place right up to the election so that he can deny the evidence that they continued after Trump won.

Also significant is the obvious lie that the Moscow Tower deal was known about. Like the Trump Tower meeting it was vociferously denied both before the election and after the inaugural.

I think this is part right. We routinely say Giuliani is a bad lawyer for blurting out deeply damaging facts about his client. I think that’s half right. It seems clear that in private discussions Trump’s team has a running conversation about a very damaging set of facts, an effort to conceal a lot of those facts but also a parallel effort to stand up legal theories that those facts don’t equate to crimes. In Giuliani’s partial defense, the facts appear to be really, really, really bad and the relentlessness of the Mueller probe is making it extremely difficult to keep them secret. So standing up defenses on the law is both necessary and inevitable, as far-fetched as they may be.

What I don’t buy is that Giuliani is using the cover of fumbling, improvisational interviews to get these new facts out. Because he ends up conceding new facts that are deeply damaging, not absolutely necessary to concede at this point and forcing yet further revelations that can be strongly inferred from those admissions.

When Rudy says these things, it’s a window into conversations Trump’s legal team (such as it is) is having and has to have. But Rudy, like his generational peer boss, is unable not to think out loud, drift, ramble and admit critical facts.

It is always important to remember that Giuliani has not worked as a trial lawyer in thirty years and even then it was in an executive role. He has zero experience in this kind of super-high-profile investigation defense work. He also has little real experience as a defense attorney. His post-mayoral gig has nominally included that but it’s more money deals and big-wig influence-leveraged negotiation. He has no experience doing this.

On the point about before and after the election, I see this differently. As I noted yesterday, CNN makes a pretty good argument that “November 2016” isn’t a factual endpoint but a privilege argument. Trump’s lawyers want to extend executive privilege back from January 20th 2017 to November 8th 2016 when he became President-Elect. That is a highly dubious argument. And it’s hard to see how private business deals would be covered under the privilege in any case. But when the facts are this bad, you need to make the arguments that are available.

What is relevant is that Giuliani has never rescinded any of those gobsmacking revelations. Because they’re not out of thin air, they are premature disclosures of private conversations and efforts to create legal arguments to deal with horrible facts.

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