Donald Trump should be a big fan of public transportation, because it seems that he has no end of buses at his disposal. Already in the Ukraine scandal, Trump has disowned everyone from his National Security team—a bunch of “Never Trumpers” that he “doesn’t know”—to the ambassador with whom he exchanged dozens of foul-mouthed phone calls. But Trump’s latest effort at distancing himself from a member of his own team is a bus-toss worthy of Hercules. Because on Tuesday evening, Trump did an interview with former Fox News top screamer Bill O’Reilly. And in that interview, Trump pitched out the single figure that remains between him and absolute knowledge of every single detail of the bevy of crimes in Ukraine. Because on Tuesday, Trump denied Rudy Giuliani.
When O’Reilly asked if Trump had sent Giuliani to Ukraine to dig up dirt on Joe Biden, Trump denied it. “No, I didn’t direct him,” said Trump, “but he is a warrior. He is a warrior.” That much might be expected, because Trump has joined other Republicans in the paradox of denying that he was pressing Ukraine to look into Biden, while loudly proclaiming Biden’s corruption at every opportunity.
But it was where Trump went from there that really put the wheels directly over Giuliani. When O’Reilly followed up by asking “what Rudy Giuliani was doing in Ukraine on your behalf,” Trump fell into language that seems all too familiar. “Well, you have to ask that to Rudy,” said Trump. “But Rudy … I don’t, I don’t even know. I know he was going to go to Ukraine, and I think he canceled a trip. But, you know, Rudy has other clients, other than me. I’m one person.”
Given a third opportunity by O’Reilly, Trump directly denied instructing Giuliani to take any action in Ukraine, saying that Giuliani is a “great corruption fighter” who “felt personally insulted” by what had happened during the 2016 campaign. One last time O’Reilly reminded Trump that Giuliani was “your personal lawyer” and asked him whether he might have asked Giuliani to “do anything or put any heat on them.” Again, Trump replied with a flat “No.”
So, according to Trump, he didn’t tell Giuliani to take any action in Ukraine. Didn’t even know why Giuliani was in Ukraine. And never instructed him to do anything to convince Ukrainian officials in any way. Which would be great if it didn’t completely contradict the testimony of every single official who appeared before the impeachment inquiry, if it didn’t contradict everything that Giuliani himself has said for a year, and if it wasn’t absolutely at odds with Trump’s “perfect transcript.”
Giuliani has made it clear that he was working in Ukraine on Trump’s business for over a year, and when he expanded both his public campaign against U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch and his pressure on Ukrainian officials with a series of media appearances in May, he was proud to wave the Trump banner.
Giuliani stated that he wanted Ukraine to “pursue inquiries into matters of interest to Trump, including an investigation into Biden’s involvement with Burisma.” Giuliani was also not shy at all about explaining the efforts to do exactly that. “We’re not meddling in an election, we’re meddling in an investigation, which we have a right to do. There’s nothing illegal about it. Somebody could say it’s improper.”
But there’s no reason to take Giuliani’s word that he was in Ukraine working for Trump. Because there’s also Trump’s word, from his “perfect phone call” to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Trump: Mr. Giuliani is a highly respected man. He was the mayor of New York City, a great mayor, and I would like him to call you. 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. … Well, [former Ambassador Yovanovitch] is going to go through some things. I will have Mr. Giuliani give you a call and I am also going to have.Attorney General Barr call and we will get to the bottom of it.
In his call, Trump not only directly instructs Zelensky to get in touch with Giuliani, but he also says that he will instruct Giuliani to call Zelensky—for the express purpose of promoting an investigation into the Bidens.
Trump’s step toward disowning Giuliani’s actions in Ukraine are so patently ridiculous that they may be a good argument to halt the impeachment proceedings—and move straight to the 25th Amendment.