So now we have the former lawman Rudy Giuliani arguing daily to the American people that their country’s laws and legal processes are illegitimate.
Collusion, he now says, is not a crime. President Trump never told James Comey to go easy on Michael Flynn, he avers, contradicting Comey, witnesses who confirm that Trump told everybody but Comey to leave the room on the fateful night—and not least of all, himself. Robert Mueller can’t possibly have anything on Trump. On Fox, Giuliani actually spoke the sentence: “The president’s an honest man.”
We know what all this is about. He understands that his client, as the president of the United States, can’t face indictment and trial in the normal way any other American citizen can. The legal system can’t catch up with him, at least while he’s president. Only the political system can. Congressional action is the only remedy for a lawless president. And Congress obeys (in theory) the will of the people. Get the people to hate the law, to believe that the law itself is lawless, and the people’s representatives will be cowed into inaction.
So that’s what Giuliani is up to: He, a former federal prosecutor, is trying to get the mob to destroy the law.
And now, as of Monday morning, he’s gone a step further. On Twitter he called on Jeff Sessions to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the special prosecutor, and he even offered up two names: former Attorney General Michael Mukasey and former FBI director Louis Freeh.
The drumbeat will now start. Giuliani will go on Fox (probably has already) to promote these ideas, and the right-wing media will follow suit along with congressmen like Jim Jordan and Devin Nunes.
It’s an unspeakably outrageous idea, by the way. You can object to the fact that Mueller was appointed. You can support his firing, if you like. But the idea that we can go around appointing investigators to investigate investigators is extremely dangerous. It’s an attempt to extinguish long-standing legal process and practices in this country. A negation of law.
I hated Ken Starr with the heat of a million suns 20 years ago, but it never would have occurred to me in a jillion years that Janet Reno should appoint someone to investigate him. And I don’t believe, from the reading and interviewing of principals I’ve done over the years, that it ever occurred to anyone in the Clinton White House or Justice Department. Trying to undermine a statutorily lawful investigation in that way is not the kind of thing that occurs to democrats.
That small “d” is intentional. I don’t mean Democrats. I mean democrats. Capisce?
What will Sessions do as the pressure mounts? I don’t want to give you more nightmares than you’re already having, but the fate of the country may hinge on Sessions, and whether he has the kishkes to stand up to this subversion of law. Because if he caves and makes such an appointment, we’ll move farther down the path of there being no law in this country except what the president decides is law.
And if Sessions appoints one of the two men Giuliani suggests, we’ll be moving there at breakneck speed. On paper, both are certainly qualified. In reality, both are very ideological men—and not coincidentally, Giuliani buddies.
Freeh, the FBI director under Bill Clinton, tried to use the bureau to damage Clinton on various matters, and praised Starr. He left office not long before 9-11 after having failed to act on a pile of evidence suggesting that a major terrorist attack may be in the offing. But what Freeh and Giuliani really share is their support for—and payment from—the Mujahedin-e-Kalqh (MeK), the Iranian group with American blood on its hands that America’s Mayor lobbied to have taken off the State Department’s terrorist list in 2012. Giuliani was paid a lot of money by the group, no one knows just how much, and Freeh spoke to MeK for a hefty fee.
Mukasey’s background is even more ominous. He and Giuliani had a secret meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in February 2017 to try to negotiate a deal under which in return for certain assurances from Turkey, the United States would release from prison Turkish-Iranian citizen Reza Zarrab, held on a range of charges, including that he conspired to violate U.S. sanctions on Iran.
The Zarrab story is bizarre and, for Americans who are worried about the path this country is currently traveling, chilling. As you know, after a failed coup in Turkey in July 2016, Erdogan went into total authoritarian mode, arresting political opponents and journalists and firing thousands of civil servants, professors, and school teachers. But the pre-history of that dark episode goes back a few years before, to a time when an independent investigation was on the verge of uncovering massive levels of corruption in the Erdogan government.
Zarrab, an Erdogan ally, was a target of that probe. In 2013, with mounting evidence of corruption, Erdogan started denouncing the investigation. It was a “witch hunt.” The work of the murky and nefarious “deep state.” Sound familiar?
Erdogan fired the investigators. In the eyes of the world, he is a despot. Well, most of the world. In April 2017, Turkish voters passed a referendum that vastly increased Erdogan’s powers—he can now, for example, choose a majority of senior judges and unilaterally decree emergency powers. Election observers said the vote did not live up to European standards, and most of the world frowned on the result. Trump called Erdogan to congratulate him.
Slowly but surely, we are becoming more and more like Erdogan’s Turkey. Trump can’t directly fire Mueller as Erdogan did the corruption investigators in Turkey, and it seems we’re still enough of a democracy for the moment that he fears a backlash, even from supine Republicans, were he to move toward dismissing Mueller.
So the work-around, the Attack Mueller Plan B they think they can get away with in a still-democratic country? Investigate him. And now, says Rudy, the investigation ought to be led by a man who partnered with him to do Erdogan a favor. While most of this is probably driven by pure greed, in Giuliani’s case, he’s made it clear who and what he admires, and it’s not the best traditions of this country.
If Giuliani had gracefully left public life after 2001, he’d have secured an overall positive place in the history books (we can debate how fully deserved that would have been, but it would have been the case). Now? Everything before, bad and good, is erased. He will join Trump in the history books, and nothing else matters. He has destroyed himself. Let’s hope that’s all he destroys.