Trump's lawyer steps into honey trap
In the election homestretch, Rudy Giuliani has been desperately seeking attention for claims of corruption he's flogging against Joe Biden and his son Hunter. That got more challenging when it came out Wednesday that Giuliani planted seeds of self-distraction months ago.
Giuliani, President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, was caught on video getting comfortable on a hotel bed and placing his hand down his pants after flirting with a young foreign television journalist who turned out to be an actress in British comic Sacha Baron Cohen’s new mockumentary. Giuliani later protested he was just tucking in his shirt at the time. In a sequel to his 2006 "Borat" film, Cohen reprised his role pranking famous people to say and do embarrassing things while pretending to be a reporter from Kazakhstan.
Giuliani went to the hotel bedroom, which was outfitted with hidden cameras, at the invitation of a woman who plays Borat's teen daughter in the role of a right-wing journalist. Giuliani was told he would be interviewed about the Trump administration’s coronavirus response, and the meeting in a swanky Manhattan hotel suite started out that way. Off that topic, the interviewer said she was nervous. Giuliani said he'd help her "relax," drinks scotch with her and is talked into continuing the conversation in the bedroom.
If you want a full play-by-play of what happened next, see these accounts by NBC News, The Daily Beast and The Guardian. Anyway, after a few seconds, Borat/Cohen burst into the room, shouting, "She’s 15. She’s too old for you." (The woman wasn't previously described to Giuliani as underage. The actress, Maria Bakalova, is 24. Giuliani is 76.) "Borat Subsequent Moviefilm" debuts Friday on Amazon Prime. (Correction: An earlier version of this newsletter incorrectly described Borat's role before the start of the interview.)
Nearly six hours after the stories appeared, Giuliani tweeted that it wasn't what it looked like. "The Borat video is a complete fabrication. I was tucking in my shirt after taking off the recording equipment," he wrote. "This is an effort to blunt my relentless exposure of the criminality and depravity of Joe Biden and his entire family," he went on. On the other hand, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd tweeted: "I’ve seen the Giuliani moment in Borat 2. It’s even wilder than it sounds. Beyond cringe."
Giuliani spoke about the Borat sting to the New York Post's Page Six in July, saying he caught on and called the police after Cohen entered the room "in a pink bikini." But Giuliani's account back then left out the bed scene. Giuliani said on WABC-AM on Wednesday that he realized he was being set up when the woman offered a massage. That wasn't mentioned in the Page Six account either.
Critics of Giuliani saw a connection between his bamboozlement by Borat and Giuliani's alleged trafficking in Russian disinformation. "If Borat was able to compromise Rudy, imagine what a trained intelligence officer could do," tweeted former CIA officer Alex Finley.
Another sequel: Thursday night's debate
Trump and Biden will square off for their second and final debate on Thursday night — a showdown that comes as a record number of Americans already have cast their ballots, writes Newsday's Laura Figueroa Hernandez.
The 90-minute exchange from Nashville, Tennessee, starts at 9 p.m. It comes three weeks after a chaotic first debate and the president’s COVID-19 diagnosis days later.
Some things to watch for: Will Trump, as advisers have been advertising, strike a less combative tone than in the first debate, which generated low marks for him in focus groups and polling? Will the muting of microphones when one candidate is speaking cut down on interruptions by the other? Will moderator Kristin Welker of NBC News — herself a pre-debate target of Trump — be able to maintain control of the proceedings? How will the candidates frame their closing arguments?
Janison: Inconvenient plague
Trump told a Tuesday night rally in Erie, Pennsylvania, that he wouldn't have had to campaign there if not for the political cost he has suffered for the coronavirus pandemic. "I had it made, I wasn’t coming to Erie," he told a packed audience.
Newsday's Dan Janison notes that in a town-hall type appearance at the White House that aired Wednesday on the right-wing Sinclair TV network, moderator Eric Bolling asked an appropriate and straightforward question: What in hindsight might he have done differently about COVID-19?
Trump's answer: "Not much."
To truly defend his own government's approach to the virus, Trump would have to specify what else he did or didn't do — or is doing now — that he would not change. His overall pandemic strategy seems to have been letting states and localities handle responses to a virus he tells everyone will go away soon. There may be nothing left for him to say that would make a difference.
Family separations linger
Lawyers appointed by a federal judge to identify migrant families who were separated at the southern border by the Trump administration in 2017 say they have yet to track down the parents of 545 children and that about two-thirds of those parents were deported to Central America without their children, NBC News reported.
The data was reported Tuesday in a filing by the American Civil Liberties Union. Unlike the 2,800 families separated under zero tolerance in 2018, most of whom remained in custody when the policy was ended by executive order, many of the more than 1,000 parents separated from their children under a pilot program the previous year were deported before a federal judge in California ordered that they be found.
"People ask when we will find all of these families, and sadly, I can't give an answer. I just don't know," said Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project.
Asked about the report, White House spokesman Brian Morgenstern said many of the parents "have declined to accept their children back … It's not for lack of effort on the administration’s part." Gelernt shot back: "We have not even found these 545 parents, so neither we nor certainly the administration can know whether they want to be reunited."
This day in polls
A raft of swing-state polls showed Biden retaining an advantage in nearly all of them.
Fox News found Biden 12 points ahead in Michigan and up by 5 points in Wisconsin.
Texas is tied, according to Quinnipiac, and Fox News sees Trump leading in Ohio by 3 points.
Obama: Biden won't be 'so exhausting'
Former President Barack Obama made his case for Biden and Kamala Harris at a drive-in rally outside a Philadelphia stadium Wednesday, urging voters to turn out for his former vice president and skewering Trump's record and conduct.
"With Joe and Kamala, you’re not going to have to think about the crazy things they say every day," Obama said of the Trump White House. "It just won’t be so exhausting. You might be able to have a Thanksgiving dinner without having an argument."
Obama ripped Trump's handling of the pandemic as evidence his successor is "incapable of taking the job seriously." He said, "Tweeting at the television doesn’t fix things. Making stuff up doesn’t make people’s lives better. You’ve got to have a plan." Trump, charged Obama, "hasn't showed any interest in doing the work or helping anybody but himself and his friends." (See a transcript of Obama's speech.)
More coronavirus news
See a roundup of the latest regional pandemic developments from Long Island and beyond by Newsday's reporting staff, written by Bart Jones. For a full list of Newsday's coronavirus stories, click here.
What else is happening:
- Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said Wednesday night that Iran was behind threatening emails sent to Democratic-registered voters that pretended to be from the far-right, pro-Trump Proud Boys group, demanding that the recipient vote for Trump. The aim, asserted Ratcliffe, was to hurt Trump. FBI Director Christopher Wray said both Iran and Russia were conducting election interference schemes.
- Trump began the month at a nearly 3-to-1 disadvantage to Biden for cash on hand — $63 million vs. $177 million. Last month, the president floated the possibility of kicking in $100 million of his own money, but there's no sign that's happened. CNBC reports Wall Street donors aren't backing Trump like they did in 2016, suggesting they no longer deem him a worthy investment.
- As the Biden campaign raked in record cash, it has become less transparent in identifying its biggest fundraisers, The New York Times reported. It has raised almost $200 million from donors who gave at least $100,000 to his joint operations with the Democratic Party in the last six months.
- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are still trying to work out a coronavirus relief package before the election. Both sides report progress. Senate Republicans are still complaining that the cost of both the Democratic and Trump administration proposals is too high.
- Senate Democrats say they plan to boycott Thursday's scheduled Judiciary Committee vote on Trump's nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated he is planning a full Senate vote on the nomination on Monday.
- The $200 drug discount cards for seniors that Trump promised during a September health-care pitch won't make it to mailboxes until after Election Day, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows indicated Wednesday.