The Sunday shows exist so that powerful people can dispense the week's preferred talking points. It has been unfortunate, for the most part, in that it has revealed most of the nation's most powerful people to be distinctly not too bright, and dishonest as a class. Which brings us, inevitably, to Rudy Giuliani.
Former New York Mayor turned Trump butler Giuliani leapt in front of the cameras this particular week to insist that the redacted Mueller report, which laid out an obsessive pattern of obstruction and a Trump campaign that was only too eager to solicit the products of a foreign espionage effort, was both a nasty piece of work and of no particular consequence. To CNN's Jake Tapper, Giuliani claimed Mueller's team "tortured" Trump campaign head Paul Manafort by interviewing and imprisoning in, and blasted Mueller deputy Andrew Weissman as "a hit man" and an "unethical prosecutor", proclaiming that Mueller "put together a staff of Hillary loving, Trump-hating people."
As for what Mueller's team of apparent vicious "Hillary loving, Trump-hating people" found, Giuliani that all of it Was Legal Now. That would be his talking point of the day, suggesting that the White House (and wider Republican) strategy will be to insist that foreign intelligence services are allowed to interfere in United States elections, and Republican candidates are allowed to solicit and use stolen information from those efforts in their campaigns.
“There's nothing wrong with taking information from Russians," Giuliani said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union."
Taking information from, as Jake Tapper emphasized, "a foreign source, a hostile foreign source?"
"Who's to say it's even illegal?"
To NBC's Chuck Todd, Giuliani was no less combative.
He railed against Mueller's report as an effort to "see if we can hang Donald Trump" while insisting that everything Trump's Republican team did was on the level.
Todd: “So it is now okay for political campaigns to work with materials stolen by foreign adversaries?”
Giuliani: “Well it depends on the stolen material.”
He agreed, when questioned by Todd, that the Russian government interfered in the election "in sweeping and systemic fashion" and that it was designed to help Trump. "I wonder if there isn't an argument that people had a right to know that information about Hillary Clinton" stolen by Russian intelligence, he put forth. (In fact, none of the emails stolen were from Hillary Clinton; the targets were the Democratic National Committee and Clinton ally John Podesta; the most significant real-world impact from any of it was "Pizzagate", an invented conspiracy that used a handful of Podesta's emails to create an elaborate imaginary plot that would soon send an dimwitted far-right gunman to fire shots inside a nondescript pizza restaurant.)
There is, according to once-presidential contender Rudy Giuliani, simply nothing to see here.
He added, “This investigation wasn’t nationwide news, international news for three years because the Russians tried to invade our election. They’ve done that before. We just caught them this time. The real news here is ‘Donald Trump conspired with the Russians to do this,’ making him almost a traitor.”
Far from a condemnation of the Trump team's breathtaking and cynical corruption, Trump-allied members of the Republican Party are treating the Mueller report as an exoneration of each of the acts it describes, from obstruction of justice to meetings with agents of a foreign power—a ruling that campaigns are going forward allowed to do those things because Mueller made no determination otherwise. (Mueller's report made it repeatedly clear that he believed only Congress had the authority to make such determinations, solely because Trump won the election. He also suggested Trump would lose those protections against prosecution the moment his presidential term ended.)
This is an aggressive stance. It fits the new Republican Party narrative, in which norms and ethics are the constraints of suckers and the only true test, after an act, is whether anyone comes to arrest you. And it arrives as Trump and his team prepare to launch a re-election campaign in which he will, again, be the favored candidate of a hostile foreign power and the likely beneficiary of ongoing Russian intelligence efforts. Giuliani is not allowing that Trump's obstructive acts or his campaign's efforts to gain from a foreign espionage and propaganda campaign are even a bad look for the Trump team, instead insisting that it has not been found to be illegal, thus exonerating both the players and their acts.
He appears confident, as well. To Fox News, Giuliani said that Trump's legal team has not produced their would-be "rebuttal" of Mueller's conclusions because they believed the media discourse was already on their side, post-report: "So far we don't think we need to."
Fortunately, Rudy Giuliani is an idiot. He seems to believe that a documented campaign of obstruction and shameless efforts to encourage and benefit from Russia's propaganda acts is something that will blow over, so long as no charges are filed against Donald Trump personally. But even as feckless as our discourse continues to be, that seems unlikely.