The Saga of Moving Goalposts in Trump’s Defense

During an interview with Chris Cuomo on Wednesday, Rudy Giuliani made a rather startling claim.

When confronted with the fact that Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort, met with Kostantin Kilimnick and handed off campaign data to a Russian agent, Giuliani said that neither he nor the president ever claimed that no one in the campaign colluded with Russia. The former mayor doesn’t seem to know that we all have access to video archives these days. Here’s just one example:

During a joint press conference last January, Trump said, “There has been no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russians, or Trump and Russians. No collusion.”

But perhaps the biggest news from Giuliani is the unstated acknowledgement that the president’s campaign manager did indeed collude with the Russians. Trump’s lawyer is simply attempting to move the goalposts once again by lying about their previous defense. A look at the progression of those moves is pretty astounding.

Initially, the claim was that there were no contacts between the campaign and Russians. We now know that there were over 100 such contacts.

Then there was the dual defense of “no collusion, but even if there was, it’s not a crime.”

The Department of Justice clarified that collusion is, indeed, a crime when spelling out the parameters of Mueller’s role in investigating Paul Manafort. Rosenstein wrote that the Special Counsel had been tasked with investigating allegations that Manafort “committed a crime or crimes by colluding with Russian government officials with respect to the Russian government’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 election for President of the United States, in violation of United States law.”

Now we see Giuliani basically admitting that Manafort colluded with the Russians and the goal post has once again been moved to, “the president didn’t collude, even if the chairman of his campaign did.”

Back when Trump hired Giuliani as part of his legal team, it was clear that the former mayor’s job wouldn’t be to defend the president in a court of law. The gambit was that Mueller would follow DOJ’s guidelines that a sitting president can’t be indicted. Instead, the battle would be over possible impeachment, which is inherently a political process that is carried out by Congress and influenced in the court of public opinion. It’s Giuliani’s job to be the president’s spokesperson in the media to both defend him and discredit the Special Counsel.

I’m sure that by Trump’s standards, Giuliani is doing a great job. He passionately defends the president and never backs down. But while these shifting goalposts aren’t dispositive in proving guilt, they demonstrate that there is not a clear case to be made for the president’s innocence. If that existed, the case would have been made a long time ago and defended consistently over time.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.