Back in May, barely a month after inexplicably stepping into the Mueller fray on behalf of Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani told the New York Times he expects the special counsel investigation to be wrapped up by September. Or at least with regard to the obstruction angle.
Giuliani’s comments to the Times were absurd for a couple of reasons. First of all, he seemed to suggest that it’s somehow up to Trump and the President’s attorneys to decide when the investigation “should” end. Technically speaking, that’s true. Trump could always fire Mueller or get rid of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, but that would risk sparking a constitutional crisis ahead of the midterms, a gamble the White House probably doesn’t want to take, if for no other reason than it has the potential to make Trump look guilty.
Assuming the President doesn’t go that route (i.e., assuming he wants to allow Mueller to finish the probe on the off chance it exonerates him), he can’t dictate the time table. Instead, he can tweet about how long it’s taking in an effort to bolster his contention that the special counsel is on a fishing expedition, but that’s about it. Here’s the quote from the Times interview referenced above:
The special counsel plans to finish by Sept. 1 its investigation into whether President Trump obstructed the Russia inquiry, according to the president’s lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, who said on Sunday that waiting any longer would risk improperly influencing voters in the midterm elections in November.
To be fair, Giuliani cited conversations the Trump team apparently had with Mueller’s investigators, so it’s possible Rudy was just relaying what he was told, but he went on to suggest that if the special counsel were to drag things out beyond September, it would risk putting the American electorate right back into the situation it was in 2016. Here’s the Times again:
He urged that the investigation be wrapped up as soon as possible, pointing as a cautionary tale to the revelation by the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey in the last days of the 2016 presidential race that he was reopening the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. Mr. Comey’s announcement is widely blamed by Democrats for costing her the election. The F.B.I. found no wrongdoing.
That, we said when the interview was published, is bizarre because it appeared to suggest that Giuliani was trying to use “look what happened to Hillary” to justify pressuring Mueller into hurrying things along. Obviously, that’s not the greatest way to frame things when you’re representing a President who is at pains to convince everyone that he won the presidency fair and square.
In any event, Giuliani has stepped up his media efforts in the wake of a series of troubling legal headlines out last week. On Monday morning, Rudy seemingly attempted to lay the groundwork for a defense centered around the notion that even if the Trump campaign did collude with Russia, collusion isn’t a crime. You can check out all the videos on that here.
Well, on Monday afternoon, yet another interview with Giuliani popped up, this one published by USA Today (the most mainstream of all mainstream media outlets). In it, Giuliani says Mueller is “writing the report as we speak” – a reference to the special counsel’s determination on whether Trump colluded with a hostile foreign power and/or attempted to obstruct the investigation into that alleged collusion.
This time (i.e., by contrast to what he suggested in the New York Times article linked above), Giuliani said he wasn’t basing his assessment on actual communications with Mueller’s team. “Giuliani said he has no firsthand knowledge of Mueller’s plans,” USA Today notes.
So what is Giuliani basing his assertions on? Well, he’s again leaning on the idea that Mueller doesn’t want to be accused of trying to influence the midterms:
I don’t think Mueller wants to be seen as interfering with the election.
That’s debatable and honestly, I’m not entirely sure it makes sense. If Mueller’s conclusions aren’t favorable for Trump (and they probably won’t be), then releasing them before the elections could be even worse for the GOP than if the investigation was still ongoing in November. After all, Trump has had more than a little success when it comes to discrediting the probe in the eyes of his base.
Whatever the case (and this is where the punchline comes in), Giuliani says he’s working on a “counter-report” designed to refute any evidence Mueller might present to support the case for collusion and/or obstruction.
There are at least two problems with that. The first one is this, as explained by USA Today:
Giuliani’s own team is preparing its “counter-report,” which he said will be released after his team has a chance to review whatever Mueller files with the Justice Department. But it’s unclear whether the special counsel will file anything with DOJ.
The second problem is that Trump is woefully outgunned on the legal front. Virtually no legal experts would even try to contend that Trump’s lawyers are in the same league as Mueller and his team, and even if Giuliani was up to the task at one time in his career, his recent television cameos suggest he’s lost a step (or twenty or thirty) over the years.
As an aside, it’s not entirely clear why Trump put himself at this kind of disadvantage in the first place. While he’s reportedly been turned down by several high profile law firms this year, it seems likely that had he gone out and sourced some talent when this all started last summer, he might have been better prepared. C’est la vie.
You can draw your own conclusions on all of this, but if I were Trump, I would consider whether it might be best (get it? “Be Best“?) to just hope the GOP carries the day in November rather than risk putting out some kind of bungled “counter-report” that will almost surely be the subject of endless ridicule by the mainstream media, no matter how convincing it is (or isn’t).
But hey, I’m not the “stable genius” around here.