Republicans’ New Trump Defense: It’s All Rudy’s Fault

Rudy Giuliani

Charles Krupa/AP

As the Ukraine scandal grows, Republican lawmakers continue searching for an effective way to defend the indefensible. They’ve said there was no quid pro quo. They’ve said quid pro quos are fine. They’ve latched onto conspiracy theories. They’ve smeared career public servants. And now they’re blaming Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani.

During a break in the impeachment hearing Friday morning, Mother Jones’ David Corn caught up with Rep. Doug Lamborn, a Republican from Colorado who serves on the House Armed Services Committee. “I have some questions about what Mr. Giuliani was doing” in Ukraine, Lamborn told reporters. “That’s a side issue. That’s got nothing to do with the president.”

That’s an odd statement, given that at every turn, Trump has instructed officials—both foreign and domestic—to speak directly with Giuliani about matters related to Ukraine policy. That was Trump’s response when Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union, attempted to convince him to host Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at the White House. Trump “just kept saying: ‘Talk to Rudy, talk to Rudy,'” Sondland testified. During his July 25 call with Zelensky, Trump asked the Ukrainian leader to speak over the phone with Giuliani and Attorney General Bill Barr about the politicized investigations that Trump wanted Ukraine to carry out. “Mr. Giuliani is a highly respected man,” Trump said during that conversation, according to the rough transcript released by the White House. “I will ask him to call you along with the Attorney General. Rudy very much knows what’s happening and he is a very capable guy. If you could speak to him that would be great.”

Corn asked Lamborn how he could reconcile these statements with his assertion that Giuliani’s activities had “nothing to do with the president.” Lamborn suggested that Giuliani may have been “off on his own mission doing things that people didn’t know about, kind of like a loose cannon.”

But, Corn asked, isn’t Trump responsible for Giuliani’s involvement?

“He may have been wrong to trust Rudy Giuliani if Giuliani was doing things on his own that were improper,” Lamborn said. “Maybe he was trusting him too much.”

Last week, Republicans telegraphed this strategy of throwing Giuliani under the bus, suggesting that he and others acted without Trump’s knowledge or approval when they attempted to coerce Ukrainian officials into launching investigations.

Lamborn appeared to be putting that strategy into practice Friday, but it’s a pretty tough case to make. Giuliani, after all, has insisted that his actions regarding Ukraine were on behalf of Trump, his client.

Last month, Giuliani refused to comply with a congressional subpoena for documents related to the impeachment inquiry, citing, among other things, attorney-client privilege and executive privilege. That’s certainly not consistent with the claim that Giuliani was “off on his own mission” that had “nothing to do with the president.”

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