President Trump being surrounded by “all the best people”
During the 2016 presidential campaign, candidate Donald Trump promised to surround himself by “the best people.” To his own chagrin, it appears President Trump kept that promise — it’s just not the people he hired.
After obtaining the latest round of felony verdicts and guilty pleas, federal prosecutors continued their winning streak as their circle closes on Trump himself. With an as yet unblemished record, who could blame the President for believing the federal government’s best prosecutors have him almost entirely surrounded?
The week led off with Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, denying the essence of truth. On “Meet the Press.” Giuliani attempted to explain to host Chuck Todd that different people with different perspectives could view the same set of facts differently. Effectively, Giuliani worried that no matter what Trump said during testimony, people intent on opposing the President would only view his words through a subjective lens bent toward their preferred outcome. That is a rational argument worthy of debate and consideration. But Giuliani didn’t stop there. Instead, he declared, “truth isn’t truth,” and obliterated any credible chance to address the difference between subjective and objective truth. Instead, he created an avalanche of Twitter-mockery and memes.
The furor over that faux pas inadvertently covered two other jaw-dropping moments in the same interview. First, it appears Giuliani has not spoken with White House Counsel Don McGahn about his lengthy testimony before Robert Mueller and the special counsel. Giuliani repeatedly referred to information provided through Trump’s former attorney John Dowd, but never information he obtained from McGahn directly. That a defense attorney in such a high profile matter did not debrief an incredibly important witness personally is almost too great a miscarriage of duty for most lawyers to wrap their head around. It’s the type of thing that leads to malpractice claims.
Later, Giuliani flatly asserted, “any meeting with regard to getting information on your opponent is something any candidate’s staff would take,” even with a foreign government. Beyond the admission of the meeting’s purpose made in that assertion, I simply know Giuliani’s statement isn’t true. I know because I worked as a senior research analyst for Giuliani’s own presidential race and we vetted the sources for our information rigorously. Any source that raised red flags led to further scrutiny. We regularly removed event hosts with transgressions that might have reflected badly on the campaign. Certainly, multiple senior staffers would not be meeting with anyone providing covert information from a foreign source.
As much as I once admired my former boss, Giuliani’s performance as defense counsel for Trump qualifies as an unmitigated disaster. On a weekly basis, he puts his client in legal jeopardy. And he obviously is not helping from a PR perspective.
In any other week, Giuliani’s performance would put him at the forefront of the political debate. Just over 48 hours later, though, Giuliani got swept aside by the dual-engine wake created by Paul Manafort’s felony conviction and Michael Cohen’s felony plea, accompanied by accusations of illegal conduct by Trump himself for good measure.
In contrast, federal prosecutors have not lost a single substantial battle yet. First, they took down National Security Advisor Michael Flynn for lying to the FBI. Then they backed Trump’s deputy campaign manager, Rick Gates, into a plea deal that included testifying against his mentor, Manafort. Next came foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos. Now Cohen and Manafort. True, Manafort’s jury returned a hung verdict on 10 counts, but the remaining eight convictions will send him away for years. Federal prosecutors, including Mueller and his team, have a perfect record to date. If you measure who is best by who wins the most, it is hard to argue against that group.
If Giuliani, Cohen, and Manafort represent the best people Trump can get, it is time for the President to panic. That should be even more true as Mueller and his best people draw closer every day.
Mario Nicolais is an attorney and Denver Post columnist who writes on law enforcement, the legal system and public policy. Follow him on Twitter: @MarioNicolaiEsq