Rudy Giuliani is the Trump administration’s point man on Ukraine. Just remember that, and everything else will make a lot more sense.
“I think it’s incredible the way he’s done,” the president said Wednesday about his personal lawyer.
We don’t know precisely what Giuliani’s diplomatic role is, given the fact that he’s not a government employee. His job seems mainly to be finding some proof that when Joe Biden was vice president, he was up to some shady Ukrainian business in order to help out his son, Hunter.
Rudy certainly has Donald Trump’s ear – and more clout than the beleaguered State Department. “Mr. Giuliani is a highly respected man,” Trump told the president of Ukraine. “He was the mayor of New York City, a great mayor, and I would like him to call you.”
As mayor, Giuliani was most famous for his 9/11 performance, which was more impressive if you ignored the fact that he’d located the city’s emergency command at the World Trade Center, despite police warnings that the towers had previously been bombed by terrorists. In a way, he’s playing a similar role now – he’s assigned to deal with a crisis he’s helped create. How often did you worry about Ukraine before Rudy picked up the case?
Among other accomplishments, our person-without-portfolio managed to get rid of the respected U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch. Giuliani seems to believe she was in collusion with liberal megadonor George Soros in a plot to destroy Paul Manafort.
It’s a dark and winding territory. Remember that fabled appearance on CNN with Chris Cuomo?
“So you did ask Ukraine to look into Joe Biden?”
“Of course I did!”
“You just said you didn’t!”
“No, I didn’t ask them to look into Joe Biden.”
If you had a pal who needed only two or three minutes of airtime to contradict himself, a pal who had no formal relationship whatsoever to the federal government, would you encourage him to speak about foreign affairs on your behalf? A lot?
See, this is why Trump is president and you’re not.
The saga Giuliani is peddling is that when Joe Biden was vice president, he got a top Ukrainian prosecutor tossed out of office for investigating Hunter Biden’s business deals in that country. Actually, most of the Western world had loathed said prosecutor for his corruption. But Trump definitely likes Rudy’s story better. Especially the part about Biden’s kid making large chunks of money from jobs he would never have gotten if his father had been, say, a high school principal in Ohio.
We will pause here to recall that Eric and Donald Trump Jr. make their living by running around collecting millions in hotel business from Republican supporters. Rudy Giuliani’s son is serving as a public liaison assistant to the president.
During his march through TV interviews, Giuliani declared that Trump never threatened to withhold Ukrainian aid unless he was given the goods on Joe Biden. Then added that he couldn’t really “tell you if it’s 100%.” The president’s confidant appeared to be saying there’s a chance – 10%? 30? 97? – that Trump actually did inform the head of a foreign government he wasn’t going to get the military funding Congress had authorized unless he came up with some dirt on a potential presidential opponent. Wow.
Rudy and Donald have a lot in common. They’ve both been married three times. Giuliani is now being sued for divorce by his latest spouse, who said he turned into a “different man.” A presumably less reliable version than the one who, as mayor, held a news conference to announce he was breaking up with his then-wife without ever notifying the person in question.
There’s a lot Trump likes about his pal. Undoubtedly including the way he’ll yell “Shut up, moron!” at a fellow panelist – even on Fox News.
Trump forcefully defended Giuliani on Wednesday when he was meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a seemingly cheerful 41-year-old former TV star who very reasonably said he didn’t “want to be involved” in American politics. The two presidents seemed to get along very well. This was possibly because Zelenskiy has learned the importance of flattering Trump at every turn.
Or maybe it’s their joint show business background. Zelenskiy starred in a TV series about an idealistic teacher who winds up becoming Ukrainian president. Our experiment with entertainers hasn’t been quite as successful. If only we’d elected, say, Homer Simpson instead. The First Pal would have been an underemployed barfly, and the whole world would have been much happier.
Gail Collins is a columnist for The New York Times.