Rudy’s Propaganda Tour

Why mount a defense when you can go make a TV show in Ukraine?

Let’s say your been accused of trying to bribe another country’s leader into engaging in various actions that would help you in your re-election bid for president. And let’s say that you claim that those charges are unfounded and that your actions were above-board (in fact, “perfect”). Indeed, you are so certain of your innocence that you can easily put on an affirmative defense of your actions so that the whole thing will be exposed as the sham it is.

Or, you could refuse to cooperate, complain about process, and, just for kicks, let your personal attorney, who is already implicated in the charges against you, go to the aforementioned foreign country to try and get even more help.

Even as the House of Representatives began drafting charges against President Trump this week, his private attorney, who many believe is partly responsible for leading Trump on the path to his likely impeachment, made an audacious trip to the country at the center of the scandal.

Rudolph W. Giuliani departed Kyiv after meeting with a range of Ukrainians who have been feeding him unproven allegations against former vice president Joe Biden and helping construct a counternarrative that is taking hold in the Republican Party. The latter story line asserts that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election, including with the baseless theory that Ukraine, rather than Russia, was behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee.

The purported purpose of the trip was to conduct interviews for a documentary on a right-wing media network. But Giuliani’s travel also appeared designed to send a broader and more brazen signal of the disregard that he and Trump have for the unfolding impeachment process.

Source: WaPo, As impeachment tide swirls around Trump, Giuliani drops anchor in Ukraine.

The network in question is the One America Network (OAN), the place Trump goes when FNC hurts his feelings.

Here’s the promo for the two-part “documentary.”

My favorite part is that “top Ukrainian officials” will “testify under oath.” The degree to which these are top Ukrainian officials is dubious (to be kind). More importantly, the notion that being “under oath” in a TV station in Ukraine means anything at all is hilarious. When was the last time Judge Judy brought contempt charges?

Trump, of course, is on board:

President Trump said his personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani planned to issue a report to the Justice Department and Congress detailing what he’d learned from his investigations in Ukraine.

Trump claimed not to know what Giuliani was doing in Ukraine this week or what he found out while there, but he asserted that Giuliani says “he has a lot of good information.”

“He’s going to make a report, I think to the attorney general and to Congress,” Trump told reporters Saturday outside the White House. “He says he has a lot of good information. I have not spoken to him about that information yet.”

“I hear he has found plenty,” Trump added.

Source: WaPo, “Trump: Giuliani will report to Justice Department, Congress on his investigations in Ukraine

For the record, and as a digression for a moment, phrases like “I hear” or “many people are saying” are just like fingernails on a chalkboard to me. They are utter nonsense and underscore, to me, the utter unseriousness of the person who uses those types of phrases.

One of the persons with whom Giuliani met was Andriy Derkash:

Derkach, an independent lawmaker who was formerly a member of a pro-Russian party in parliament, went to the Dzerzhinsky Higher School of the KGB in Moscow. He is the son of a KGB officer who later served as head of Ukrainian intelligence.

Source: WaPo, Ukraine lawmaker seeking Biden probe meets with Giuliani in Kyiv

Not surprisingly, Derkash is promising dirt on the Bidens.

Derkach said he handed Giuliani documents on allegations relating to inefficient expenditure of U.S. government money on projects in Ukraine and other matters.

The documents do not mention the Bidens. But Derkach makes reference to the energy company Burisma, which had Hunter Biden as a board member.


Derkach has previously led calls to investigate the Bidens and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections. In 2017, he wrote a letter to the Ukrainian prosecutor general’s office, demanding an investigation into alleged interference in the elections by Ukrainian officials to hamper Trump’s campaign, claiming this had “seriously damaged Ukraine-American relations.”

The July 24, 2017, letter came one day before Trump called on the U.S. attorney general’s office in a tweet to investigate “Ukrainian efforts to sabotage the Trump campaign.”

Derkach and Dubinsky, however, seem to be experiencing difficulty attracting the support of 150 members of parliament — the number required to form the investigative group.

Source: ibid.

I cannot stress enough that if the administration was interested in working with Ukraine to foster anti-corruption policies, this would not be the way to do it. Having the President’s personal attorney interview a handful of Ukrainians who claim to want to fight corruption, is not the way to do it.

At any rate, while Trump is being investigated, and likely soon to be impeached, over trying to get Ukrainian government officials to investigate a chief political rival, his personal attorney is in Ukraine working with a Ukrainian official to investigate his chief political rival.

To my point above: there is no affirmative defense coming from Trump, rather there is doubling down on behavior that got him into trouble in the first place. Indeed, such behavior actually further makes the moral case for impeachment because Trump and his cronies clearly think that the rules do not apply to them.

Stepping outside of the specifics, the basic situation is this: the attorney of the accused has gone to a foreign country to stage a TV show using c-list politicians (to be kind) to be shown on an obscure television network that most people have not even heard of, let alone have access to.

Can anyone with a straight face state that such a scenario is the kind of thing that a neutral observer would find as suggestive that the accused is innocent?

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Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Scott F. says:

    Why try to play to “a neutral observer” when you can get Republican congresspeople to take your dubious claims and unanimously sell them as if they were the Gospel truth on television and even during formal legislative hearings? When there is NO information that exculpates the accused and if claiming innocence is no longer an option, the play is to blow smoke.

  2. CSK says:

    Trump has been a crook all his life. He has no idea of how to be anything but a crook. It’s not just his default mode, it’s his only mode.

    Why expect him to behave differently now?

  3. Kathy says:

    The documentary is for the rubes, those who support him and those who don’t. Not for the sniveling cowards and the deplorables in Congress.

    After all, if it wasn’t true, they wouldn’t have made a documentary about it.

  4. Gustopher says:

    there is no affirmative defense coming from Trump, rather there is doubling down on behavior that got him into trouble in the first place. Indeed, such behavior actually further makes the moral case for impeachment because Trump and his cronies clearly think that the rules do not apply to them.

    Do rules apply to them? That remains to be seen. My guess that that they are correctly reading the situation — the Senate will not vote to convict, any political price has already been paid, and they might as well go for it.

    Paul L., andros, Nickel Front and the ilk will applaud and either pretend to believe or actually believe; David Brooks will shake his head at the partisanship on both sides; and low-information swing voters will be so disgusted they stay home.

    Bonus points if they can get The NY Times to start reporting on Biden’s emails or his son’s emails or whatever.

  5. Warren Peese says:

    Giuliani hasn’t used a source that hasn’t been sketchy.

  6. Joe says:


    because Trump and his cronies clearly think that the rules do not apply to them.

    It’s actually worse than them “thinking” the rules don’t apply to them. They are actually demanding that the Republican Senate confirm that the rules don’t apply to them, both in regard to the Ukraine/election matter and in regard to the ability of Congress to exercise oversight over the Executive. I have every apprehension that the Republican Senate will not only agree that the rules don’t apply to them, but we will find out a few years from now that the “them” they don’t apply to isn’t the Executive, but just a Republican Executive. Between now and then, we will have Trump with all the guardrails down.

  7. An Interested Party says:

    This alleged “dirt” that Giuliani is supposedly digging up is the real fake news…it is incredible how much projection this administration practices, in just about everything they say and do…

  8. Scott F. says:

    This can not be overstated. The complicity of the Republican Party in the “above the law” behavior of the Trump administration is the big story here. You’ve got to believe that these GOP politicians are extremely confident they will never be on the receiving end of such Executive abuses. I don’t see how a politician with any foresight at all could so brazenly forego the rules unless they thought they had strong protections that would prevent or seriously defer their comeuppance.

    It would seem they are convinced that they can play this to their continuous advantage through:
    1) anti-democratic measures like gerrymandering and voter suppression that would keep them in power;
    2) a pliant judiciary they’ve manage to seat that would provide legal cover to their rule breaking; or
    3) the ongoing power to misinform with a media mouthpiece like Fox.

  9. gVOR08 says:

    This could be a good defense strategy for Trump. First it may generate a whole lot of smoke making it hard for the public and the supposedly liberal MSM to focus on the real issues. Then if there’s a cloud of illegal activity surrounding Trump, but not obviously ordered by Trump, he can blame it all on corrupt minions, who he barely knows despite the pile of photos with him. He can claim they’re running their own scams, which they are, but nothing to do with him. He’ll promise, or imply, pardons and as long as no one breaks the code and says Trump ordered me to do it, he’s clear. Rudy will go along with being thrown under the bus if there’s enough in it for him. Trump may have learned from Putin and his mob buddies to not order any illegal acts. A hint, an incentive, a nod, maybe even so far as, “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?”.

    Is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt really the appropriate standard for a president* suspected of being a tool of a hostile foreign power?

  10. An Interested Party says:

    Of course…

    The fact that Giuliani is back in Ukraine is like a murder suspect returning to the crime scene to live-stream themselves moon dancing.

  11. Jay L Gischer says:

    I hate to be an apologist for their behavior, but couldn’t this be expected to work like, “Well, I did nothing wrong, and it’s so not wrong I’m going to keep on doing it and expose the corruption behind all these vile, baseless attacks on me.” ?

    I think you just have to keep feeding the cult material that they can hang on to. The more actions people have taken based on a belief, the harder it will be to get them to change the belief. The worst thing you can tell them is nothing.

  12. Kevin Lynch says:

    Motherfucker #1 is now Asshole #1… he’s apparently his own ‘campaign’ manager. Ha-ha-ha-ha. This shitbag and Rudy Tooty are an impeachment procedure’s Best Friends!! Prosecutors in NY will love these guys doing their work for them! Now the GOP dipshits need to look inward — way down deep — and decide, ‘Do we want to ride out the Queen Elizabeth cruise ship… or the Titanic’ ?

  13. @Jay L Gischer: It is clearly aimed at the base of the base, and I get the strategy (which will work, to a degree, at least in the short term).

  14. An Interested Party says:

    Apparently Giuliani is not the fool he likes to portray himself as…

  15. CSK says:

    That dipsh!t who runs The Conservative Treehouse is raving that this is the most brilliant piece of investigative reporting he’s ever seen.