Rudy Giuliani admits 'Spygate' is Trump PR tactic against Robert Mueller | US news
Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani said on Sunday that his repeated imputations of a supposed scandal at the heart of the Robert Mueller investigation – which Donald Trump calls “Spygate” – amounted to a tactic to sway public opinion and limit the risk of the president being impeached.
“Of course we have to do it to defend the president,” Trump’s lawyer told CNN State of the Union host Dana Bash, who accused him of being part of a campaign to undermine the Mueller investigation. Trump has repeatedly called the special counsel’s work a “witch hunt”, despite its producing five guilty pleas, including by three former Trump aides, and evidence of Russian tampering in US elections.
“It is for public opinion,” Giuliani said of his public campaign of dissimulation. “Because eventually the decision here is going to be impeach or not impeach. Members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, are going to be informed a lot by their constituents. And so our jury – and it should be – is the American people.
“So Republicans largely, many independents, even some Democrats now question the legitimacy of [the Mueller investigation],” Giuliani said. “Democrats I would suggest for their own self-interest, this is not a good issue to go into the midterms.”
As Giuliani acknowledged the political nature of his public campaign against Mueller, Trump advanced that campaign on Twitter, lamenting what he said were “young and beautiful lives … devastated and destroyed” by the investigation of alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
“They went back home in tatters!” Trump wrote. It was unclear who he was talking about.
Trump, Giuliani and other allies claim reports that an FBI informant monitored links between Trump aides and Russia show there was a “spy” on the Trump campaign. Senior figures in the intelligence community have rubbished such claims.
On ABC’s This Week on Sunday, the Democrat Adam Schiff, ranking member of the House intelligence committee, said: “This is part of the propaganda machine. Let’s spread a completely fallacious story and then say it needs to be investigated, and give it a life of its own.”
The Arizona senator Jeff Flake, a rare Republican critic of Trump, told NBC’s Meet the Press the “Spygate” claims were a “diversion tactic, obviously”.
He added: “There is concern that the president is laying the groundwork to [fire] Bob Mueller or [deputy attorney general Rod] Rosenstein. If that were to happen, obviously, that would cause a constitutional crisis.”
According to a CNN poll from 10 May, views of the Mueller investigation have shifted significantly among Republicans since March. The poll found that Republican approval of Mueller had declined to 17%, from 29%. Approval among Democrats had fallen slightly, from 69% to 64%. A majority of respondents from both parties disapproved of Trump’s handling of the Mueller investigation.
Giuliani is a former US attorney for the southern district of New York. In his CNN appearance, he called former CIA director John Brennan and former director of national intelligence James Clapper, both fierce critics of Trump, “two clowns”.
“I have no regard at all for Brennan or Clapper. I think they’re two clowns…” Giuliani said. “They’re not civil servants as far as I know.”
Clapper told the same show: “In the space of a week I’ve progressed from being the dumbest intelligence officer on the planet, from President Trump, to a clown. So it’s progress, I guess.”
Michael Hayden, another former director of the CIA, told ABC that Trump was “simply trying to delegitimize Mueller … and he’s willing to throw anything against the wall.
“From the outside looking in, from everything I know, everyone has handled this just about the way it should have been handled.”
Giuliani’s month-old job as a spokesman for the president has been marked by confusion, contradiction and scandal. He began by saying money used to seal a 2016 hush agreement with the porn actor Stormy Daniels had come from Trump, who had earlier flatly denied, on camera, any knowledge of the $130,000.
“We’re not changing any stories,” Trump told reporters. Trump has denied having an affair with Daniels.
Giuliani also said earlier this month Trump would have had his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, pay off women in addition to Daniels “if necessary”. Giuliani told ABC he had “no knowledge” of any other payments to women.
Trump has repeatedly excused and praised Giuliani. “He started yesterday,” Trump said on 4 May. “He’ll get his facts straight. It’s actually very simple, there has been a lot of misinformation really.”