'Not a crime'
Rudy Giuliani spoke about his client, President Donald Trump, and Trump's former lawyer, Michael Cohen, on two talk show appearances Sunday. So when Giuliani said, "He lies to fit the situation he's in," which one was he talking about?
Giuliani, unsurprisingly, meant Cohen — "the man is pathetic." But when pressed to explain why Trump has repeatedly changed his story about his involvement in the hush-money payoffs to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal — the porn star and Playboy model who said they had affairs with him — here's what he came up with:
"The president’s not under oath," said Giuliani. "And the president tried to do the best he can to remember what happened back at a time when he was the busiest man in the world."
It didn't get much better from there for Giuliani following a week in which Cohen was sentenced for crimes that included campaign finance violations for the payoffs to the purported paramours, and the U.S. attorney in Manhattan revealed that the publisher of the National Enquirer admitted collaborating with Trump and Cohen on hiding Trump sex scandals during his presidential run.
Giuliani, who coined the phrase "truth isn't truth" a month of Sundays ago, said he could "produce 20 witnesses" that Trump's motivation was to protect his marriage and children, not politics. Sounds like a remarkable number of people to be privy to secret deals to keep secrets.
"Even if it were true, it's not a crime," Giuliani said. He repeated variations of "not a crime" a dozen times, applying them to Russia-related facets of the Trump investigations as well.
So what are the prospects, Giuliani was asked, that Trump will sit down for an interview with special counsel Robert Mueller? "Over my dead body — but you know, I could be dead," he replied. For more, see Newsday's story by Laura Figueroa Hernandez. Click on the following links for transcripts of the Giuliani interviews on ABC's "This Week" and "Fox News Sunday", and here for a video clip.
If Trump acts like he's under siege, it's because he is. Nearly every organization he has led in the past decade is under investigation, The Washington Post writes.
His 2016 campaign is under scrutiny. His private company is contending with civil suits digging into its business with foreign governments and with looming state inquiries into its tax practices. His inaugural committee has been probed by Mueller for illegal foreign donations. Trump’s charity is embroiled in an ongoing suit with New York State.
Trump lashed out in several directions on Twitter on Sunday, but most acidly at Cohen and the feds who went after him: "Remember, Michael Cohen only became a 'Rat' after the FBI did something which was absolutely unthinkable & unheard of until the Witch Hunt was illegally started. They BROKE INTO AN ATTORNEY’S OFFICE!"
Just the other day, Trump insisted Cohen was more a "public relations" man than lawyer for him. More to the point, the raid wasn't a break-in. The FBI executed a search warrant obtained from a judge in conducting a raid in April on Cohen's home, office and hotel room.
Andrew McCarthy is a conservative ex-federal prosecutor whose past accusations of overreach in the Russia investigation have been cited approvingly in Trump's tweets. He parted ways with the president on this one.
"Sir, in mobster lingo, a ‘rat’ is a witness who tells prosecutors real incriminating info. Perhaps a different word? Searches of lawyer’s offices common enough that DOJ has a procedure for them. Here it yielded evidence of crimes you said he should be jailed for. You should stop."
Janison: Nonsense knows no barrier
When it comes to his Mexico border dream, Trump can't stop himself from trying to see what will stick to the wall that is or isn't there, writes Newsday's Dan Janison.
He's still trying to make the argument, unconvincingly, that Mexico will pay for it, circuitously, because of a trade agreement. He suggests he can turn to the military to build it as a last resort. But he's still threatening a partial government shutdown if Congress won't give him $5 billion for it.
'SNL' skit sets off Trump snit
Trump is so upset over how he gets treated on "Saturday Night Live" that he'd like to take the comedy show to court.
His tweet: "A REAL scandal is the one sided coverage, hour by hour, of networks like NBC & Democrat spin machines like Saturday Night Live. It is all nothing less than unfair news coverage and Dem commercials. Should be tested in courts, can’t be legal? Only defame & belittle! Collusion?"
Trump didn't say what in particular set him off, but this weekend's show opened with a takeoff on the Christmastime film classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” that imagined what it would be like for him and those around him if had he never been elected president. (By and large, they were better off — there was harmony in the George and Kellyanne Conway household, and Mueller — played by Robert DeNiro — is spending more time with his grandson instead of investigating "some idiot for treason." Here's the video clip.)
How did Trump end up choosing his budget director, Mick Mulvaney, as acting of chief of staff? The Associated Press reports Mulvaney has shown him loyalty, demonstrated political savvy, developed a personal rapport with the president and has a decent golf game. Unlike the departing John Kelly, Trump believes Mulvaney won't try to rein him in.
Not that Mulvaney has always been fond of Trump. As a South Carolina congressman just before the 2016 election. Mulvaney said he was supporting Trump "as enthusiastically as I can, given the fact that I think he's a terrible human being."
What else is happening:
- By 62% to 34%, Americans believe Trump hasn't been honest and truthful about the Russia investigation, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.
- A report prepared for the Senate intelligence committee finds that Russia's disinformation campaign around the 2016 election found the operation used every major social media platform to deliver words, images and videos tailored to voters’ interests to help elect Trump, The Washington Post reported.
- Trump hailed the decision by a Texas federal judge that the entire Obamacare law is unconstitutional as "great news for America," but Republican senators who also opposed the health care act were more restrained on the Sunday shows. The ruling “means we're going to continue to debate this,” said Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri.
- Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, quitting as he faces multiple ethics investigations, got his wish to hang on long enough to host a Christmas party, The Washington Post reported. He invited lobbyists and conservative activists to his executive suite and posed for photos in front of a large stuffed polar bear wearing a Santa cap.
- Trump tweeted that he will be "reviewing" the case of a former U.S. Army Special Forces officer accused of murdering a Taliban prisoner in Afghanistan, a move that could complicate the prosecution. Trump called Major Matt Golsteyn a "military hero." He apparently saw a segment about Golsteyn on Fox News.
- Thousands of tenants in outer-borough buildings once owned by the Trump family are paying higher rents than they should, The New York Times reported. It's the legacy of a scheme that padded maintenance invoices so the Trump siblings could skim off extra cash and get bigger increases on rent-regulated apartments, the report said.
- Here's a prediction that didn't pan out: Then-White House lawyer Ty Cobb, speaking to Reuters in August 2017 about the Mueller investigation, said, “I’d be embarrassed if this is still haunting the White House by Thanksgiving and worse if it’s still haunting him [Trump] by year end.”