Trump Agitated by Giuliani's Interviews01/23 06:24
Rudy Giuliani's latest media blitz, which was filled with a dizzying array
of misstatements and hurried clarifications, 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.
NEW YORK (AP) -- Rudy Giuliani's latest media blitz, which was filled with a
dizzying array of misstatements and hurried clarifications, 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
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. The president told advisers that he felt
his lawyer had obscured what he believed was a public relations victory: the
special counsel's rare public statement disputing portions of a BuzzFeed News
story that Trump instructed his former attorney, Michael Cohen, to lie before
The president told confidants that Giuliani had "changed the headlines" for
the worse and raised the possibility that Giuliani do fewer cable hits, at
least for a while, according to the officials and Republicans.
Several of Trump's influential outside allies also have begun expressing
reservations about Giuliani. Some members of this informal network of advisers,
whom the president frequently calls from the White House residence, urged Trump
in recent days to bench Giuliani --- but most stopped short of suggesting he be
fired, according to four White House officials and Republicans close to the
Trump has not expressed an inclination to dismiss Giuliani.
Rarely reluctant to appear before TV cameras or answer a reporter's call,
Giuliani has spent nearly a year acting as a sort of human smokescreen for
Trump. He has long played the role more of presidential spokesman than
attorney, often unleashing public attacks on special counsel Robert Mueller's
probe into possible contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia.
But a recent set of interviews, which were quickly pilloried across cable
news, prompted increased concerns about both Trump's legal exposure and the
effectiveness of his vocal attorney.
Frustration about Giuliani in the West Wing has long run rampant. The former
New York City mayor, who frequently speaks directly to the president, is
Trump's outside counsel and works in a different orbit than White House
officials, who are still left to play damage control after some of Giuliani's
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.
Giuliani has previously insisted he does not have an issue with drinking,
denying to Politico last May that it affected his interviews. He added: "I may
have a drink for dinner. I like to drink with cigars."
The latest furor began Sunday as Giuliani, wearing a suit, tie and New York
Yankees World Series ring, appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press" and dramatically
altered the timeline regarding discussions about a Trump Tower in Moscow, now
asserting they stretched until November 2016. That statement, which suggested
that the Trump Organization was engaged in business dealings with Russia up to
and beyond the election, ignited a firestorm and then an abrupt walk-back from
He issued a statement the next day saying his comments about the project
"were hypothetical and not based on conversations I had with the President. My
comments did not represent the actual timing or circumstances of any such
Then, hours later in an interview with The New Yorker, Giuliani raised
eyebrows again when he seemed to suggest he had listened to tapes of Trump and
Cohen that had not previously been discussed.
"I shouldn't have said tapes," Giuliani said as he tried to backtrack. He
then added that there were "No tapes. Well, I have listened to tapes, but none
of them concern this." He did not elaborate further.
The muddled interviews were a failed victory lap over the BuzzFeed story,
which prompted a number of House Democrats to raise the possibility of
impeaching Trump. But the special counsel, which rarely issues public
responses, said that at least portions of the story were not accurate, leading
both Giuliani and Trump to crow about media bias against the Republican
BuzzFeed has issued statements standing by its reporting. No other media
outlet has confirmed the story. Giuliani did not immediately respond to a
request for comment Tuesday.
This is far from the first time Giuliani has been forced to issue a
clarification, as he has frequently offered contradictory accounts of
developments in the Russia investigation. Earlier this month, he was forced to
clean up a remark in which he asserted that he only could vouch that the
president had not colluded with Russia, rather than the whole campaign, a
dramatic change of story.
"Rudy had done a very good job going on TV and fighting back and laying down
a defense of the president," said Sam Nunberg, a former Trump campaign
official. "But now it's time to get precise, you can't be so loose anymore. He
had a major slip."
At times, Giuliani's seemingly out-of-nowhere admissions in interviews have,
in fact, been part of a strategy to get ahead of damaging news stories. Last
May, Giuliani went on Sean Hannity's Fox News show and acknowledged that Trump
repaid Cohen for hush money payments to Stormy Daniels, the porn star alleging
an affair with Trump, a statement viewed then as a misstep but later perceived
as an effort to minimize revelations about possible campaign finance violations.
After struggling to find a cable-ready defender, Trump has been mostly
appreciative of Giuliani's attack-dog style --- and, for a time, his broadsides
against Mueller appeared to play a role in driving down the special counsel's
poll ratings. But at other times the president has expressed dismay at
Giuliani's scattershot style.
Part of his confusion is that while Giuliani frequently speaks to his
client, the president's legal team has had a difficult time corralling Trump
for a lengthy debriefing about the facts of the case, particularly from events
stemming before the presidency, according to one official and a Republican
close to the White House.
Still, Giuliani is regarded as an important member of the legal team. A
former federal prosecutor, he has also been the team's public face and, even if
not the primary author of letters and other documents to the Mueller team, he
has nonetheless helped develop strategy. And TV networks have not shown any
reluctance to book Giuliani, despite his unreliability, because of his
rock-solid resume and the lack of any Trump surrogates willing to appear on a
cable network that is not Fox News.
"I am afraid it will be on my gravestone. 'Rudy Giuliani: He lied for
Trump.' Somehow, I don't think that will be it," Giuliani told The New Yorker.
"But, if it is, so what do I care? I'll be dead. I figure I can explain it to
Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders did not respond to questions Tuesday
about whether Trump still had confidence in Giuliani.