The knives are out for Rudy Giuliani.
In classic Washington fashion, the press is now using anonymous sources to trash Donald Trump’s lawyer, to suggest that the president and top aides are fed up with him, even to intimate that he has a drinking problem.
It’s the dark side of D.C., the art of character assassination.
Now it’s true that Giuliani’s recent performances have been anything but smooth. He keeps stumbling and having to backtrack. And that, to be sure, is fair game for scrutiny and criticism.
But instead, it’s being turned into a “Game of Thrones.”
I smelled this coming on Tuesday when a single paragraph in a New York Times story indicated that some in the White House were getting fed up with Giuliani.
Things reached fever pitch yesterday, with Politico declaring: “Rudy Giuliani has a growing list of enemies in the White House — which now includes his boss, President Donald Trump.”
Now they’re enemies?
The potshots against the former New York mayor continued:
“Trump was apoplectic after a pair of weekend media interviews by his personal lawyer, in which Giuliani said that the president had been involved in discussions to build a Trump Tower in Moscow through the end of the 2016 campaign — a statement that enraged Trump because it contradicted his own public position, according to two sources close to the president. Trump spent much of Sunday and Monday fuming to aides and friends about his lawyer’s missteps.”
So Trump is mad as hell and not gonna take it anymore?
Not according to Maggie Haberman, the New York Times White House correspondent, who said on CNN: “He’s generally happy with what Giuliani has done. Giuliani has served as something of an extension of his client’s id over the last several months. That might make other people unhappy but not the president.”
And here’s the killer blind quote in Politico about who is handling Giuliani, from an unnamed White House aide: “Handling Rudy’s f—ups takes more than one man.”
The AP is in the same camp, saying Giuliani’s latest blitz “agitated President Donald Trump and some of his allies, who have raised the possibility that the outspoken presidential lawyer be at least temporarily sidelined from televised interviews.
“Trump was frustrated with Giuliani, according to three White House officials and Republicans close to the White House who were not authorized to speak publicly about private conversations.”
Trump is said to believe (justifiably) that the Rudy-generated controversies stepped on a positive story for the president, Robert Mueller’s partial knockdown of the BuzzFeed piece saying he encouraged Michael Cohen to commit perjury.
Over the weekend, Giuliani told “Meet the Press” and the Times that the president had informed him he discussed the Russian Trump Tower project with Cohen throughout the election, telling the Times the discussions were “going on from the day I announced to the day I won.” But afterward, he put out a statement saying he had been speaking hypothetically.
There was another head-slapper in an interview with The New Yorker. Asked how he knew the BuzzFeed story was wrong, Giuliani said, “Because I have been through all the tapes, I have been through all the texts, I have been through all the e-mails … “
Uh, reporter Isaac Chotiner asked, what tapes?
“I shouldn’t have said tapes,” Rudy said.
Politico, to its credit, interviewed the onetime prosecutor, who said he has a good grip of the facts, that Trump hasn’t complained to him, “and nobody in the White House would complain to me. They just do it behind my back.” He blamed the media for the confusion over some of his comments, saying they don’t understand the legal technique of arguing in the alternative.
But there was one part of the Politico piece that shouldn’t have been published:
“Some of Trump’s allies have suggested that Giuliani be barred from evening interviews because of concerns that he was going on TV after drinking, according to three Republicans close to the White House.”
Sorry, but you can’t accuse the president’s lawyer of being sloshed on the air without someone willing to go on the record or some evidence of inebriation.
Giuliani is a veteran pol who knows full well that he’s getting scuffed up. He had a pungent response when The New Yorker asked if his current performance would tarnish his legacy:
“I am afraid it will be on my gravestone. ‘Rudy Giuliani: He lied for Trump.’ Somehow, I don’t think that will be it. But, if it is, so what do I care? I’ll be dead. I figure I can explain it to St. Peter.”
Now that’s taking the long view.