The Trump paradigm: It’s OK to get help from Russia. And China. And North Korea | Editorial

Updated Apr 30, 2019


As often noted, much of what Rudy Giuliani says echoes like something being screamed over the shoulder of a bouncer dragging him out of a nightclub, but this is the messenger that Donald Trump chooses for damage control whenever the president sets the White House on fire.

So Giuliani goes on TV, where his circumlocution is ratings magic.

He has slandered James Comey as “Judas” and FBI agents as “stormtroopers.” He confirmed that Trump “funneled” $130,000 in hush money through a law firm to a porn star. His assessments of Michael Cohen ping-ponged from blandishments (“an honest, honorable lawyer”) to condemnations (“a proven liar”). He threatened to charge Robert Mueller “with a lance” to defend Ivanka Trump, but called Jared Kushner “disposable.” And he disapproved of the president talking to Mueller because “Truth isn’t truth.”

Then, last week, Giuliani said that there is “nothing wrong with taking information from Russians.”

It’s true that in his sphere, obtaining intel from a geopolitical enemy is acceptable, provided the beneficiary has no sense of morality.

But other than the fact that it flouts Federal Election Commission rules, which forbid “any contribution or donation of money or other thing of value” from a foreign source, it doesn’t seem like a campaign strategy that most Americans would endorse.

Do we really want to continue to hold elections under the Trump paradigm, where foreign interference is not only acceptable but encouraged?

What if the 2020 Democratic nominee was to benefit from stolen information from North Korea? What if he or she receives material hacked from the phones of the president’s campaign staff by Chinese operatives? Do we really want this to be the new normal?

It is apparently acceptable to Giuliani’s client, because he has yet to address the persuasive, top-line takeaway from Mueller Vol. 1: Russia’s interference was “sweeping and systematic,” it was done to expressly help the Trump campaign, and Trump’s people welcomed that interference.

And as Giuliani sees it, there’s nothing wrong with that.

The unhinged surrogate spent much of last week amping up his criticism of Don McGahn, the former White House counsel who will command a captive audience if or when he testifies before the House Judiciary Committee.

It was McGahn who provided the most convincing evidence of Trump’s obstruction fetish in Mueller Vol. 2, so he must be discredited by Giuliani. But the fact pattern is pretty clear: “McGahn was confident that he had at least two phone conversations with the president in which the president directed him to call the acting attorney general to have the special counsel removed,” Mueller found.

Here’s Giuliani’s rebuttal in the New York Times: “It can’t be taken at face value. It could be the product of an inaccurate recollection or could be the product of something else.”

Or, it could be an aberrant example of Trump having a principled attorney.

It was not an especially complex decision for McGahn. Left with a choice – to put his legal career in jeopardy by abetting a Trump implosion, or leaving the madhouse – he threatened to do the latter. It worked. Trump backed down.

Giuliani doesn’t recognize the virtue of McGahn saving the president from his own “crazy s---,” which is troubling, but hardly surprising.

This is the deviant space the president’s lawyer now occupies: “If we're going to start making moral judgments about everybody in public office,” Giuliani told Chris Cuomo on CNN, “we'll have nobody in public office."

Or maybe we’d have moral people in government. In time, with a little luck, people like Giuliani might have trouble finding work.

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