NEWS ANALYSIS — Depending on what side of the political aisle you walk, Rudy Giuliani is either a gift that keeps on giving or a self-inflicted wound that won’t heal.
The former mayor of New York and newest member of President Donald Trump’s legal team is either carrying out a shrewd scorched-earth policy in the media, or an idiot who can’t keep his mouth shut.
In a May 11 interview with The HuffPost, Giuliani was defending allegations that Trump’s personal lawyer and problem “fixer,” Michael Cohen, had not influenced the president on the AT&T, Time Warner $85 billion merger.
AT&T has admitted paying Cohen $600,000 as a consultant to help ascertain Trump’s mindset on corporate mergers — notably its own — a move CEO Randall Stephenson has apologized for.
“Whatever lobbying [in favor of the merger] was done didn’t reach the president,” Giuliani said. “The president denied the merger. They didn’t get the result they wanted.”
Technically, Trump hasn’t denied anything. A federal judge in June will decide whether the merger goes through.
Yet, Giuliani’s comment is significant considering the White House has refuted getting involved in the M&A that would give AT&T control of Time Warner, whose assets include Warner Bros., Turner (TNT, TBS and CNN) and HBO.
While Trump argued against the merger on the campaign trail, a sitting president usually doesn’t get involved in M&A activity before the Department of Justice’s antitrust division.
The DOJ filed a lawsuit against the merger, claiming it was bad for consumers. Trump, of course, has railed publicly against CNN, claiming the news organization peddles “fake news” about his administration.
“If Giuliani didn’t misspeak, this is major news,” Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor, tweeted May 11, as reported by CNN.
Of course, misspeaking has become a hallmark of Giuliani, who earlier this month made news when he told Fox News that Trump had personally reimbursed Cohen for the $130,000 hush payment made to porn star Stormy Daniels just before the 2016 election about an alleged 2006 affair.
“That was money that was paid by his lawyer, the way I would do, out of his law firm funds,” said Giuliani. “Michael would take care of things like this like I take care of this with my clients. I don’t burden them with every single thing that comes along. These are busy people.”
Those comments resulted in Giuliani taking a leave of absence from the law firm he worked for — Greenberg Traurig, a leave that is now permanent.
Greenberg Traurig May 10 issued a statement — first reported by The New York Times — saying its lawyers do not send secretive payments for clients.
“We cannot speak for Mr. Giuliani with respect to what was intended by his remarks,” read the statement. “Speaking for ourselves, we would not condone payments of the nature alleged to have been made or otherwise without the knowledge and direction of a client.”