On Sunday, one of President Donald Trump's lawyers conceded that their team was using an alleged recent scandal as a method of discrediting special counsel Robert Mueller and the Russia investigation he is leading. Specifically, speaking to CNN's Dana Bash about the ongoing conversation and allegations surrounding Spygate, Rudy Giuliani said it helped Trump's public image to continue focusing on it.
"It is for public opinion," Giuliani told Bash during a Sunday episode of State of the Union, acknowledging that continuing to push the so-called controversy was more of a political tactic than a legal one. He continued:
Because eventually the decision here is going to be impeach or not impeach. Members of Congress, Democrats, and Republicans, are going to be informed a lot by their constituents. And so our jury is — as it should be — is the American people. And the American people, yes, are … Republicans, largely, independents, pretty substantially, and even some Democrats now question the legitimacy of [the Mueller probe].
Insofar as public opinion about Trump is concerned, publicly acknowledging that his team was working to avoid impeachment amounted to a striking admission on national television. He went on to tell Bash that Americans are increasingly critical of the Mueller investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Both Trump and the Kremlin have denied collusion allegations.
Spygate, as a refresher, is the theory that the FBI stationed a spy within Trump's 2016 presidential campaign to keep tabs on their alleged dealings with Russia. It has not been confirmed, but it stems from reports that an intelligence source was at some point collecting information from those orbiting Trump in an effort to figure out if, and to what extent, Russian forces may have tried to negatively impact the integrity of the 2016 election.
Trump and his camp, in turn, concluded the he was being unfairly spied on, and has hence coined the term Spygate to refer to the alleged scandal. "SPYGATE could be one of the biggest political scandals in history!" Trump tweeted on May 23.
"Clapper has now admitted that there was Spying in my campaign," he said the next day, referring to the former Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper. "Large dollars were paid to the Spy, far beyond normal. Starting to look like one of the biggest political scandals in U.S. history. SPYGATE — a terrible thing!"
The assertion that Clapper admitted anything has been proven false.
"The objective here was actually to protect the campaign by determining whether the Russians were infiltrating it and attempting to exert influence," Clapper told CNN's Anderson Cooper on May 22.
Clapper made similar comments on that day's episode of The View. When co-host Joy Behar asked him point-blank whether or not the FBI spied on Trump's campaign, he denied it.
"No, they were not," he said. "They were spying on — a term I don't particularly like — but on what the Russians were doing. Trying to understand were the Russians infiltrating, trying to gain access, trying to gain leverage or influence which is what they do."
Both Trump and Giuliani have described Mueller's investigation as "rigged," following the alleged revelations.
According to Giuliani, any accusations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia came as a total surprise to the president and his campaign leadership. However, he then told Bash that he couldn't personally be sure that no one on the campaign worked with the foreign power.
"You go out to the outer orbit [of the campaign], how do I know what is going on?" Rudy asked Bash. "But I don’t think that would matter. You can’t — if there is collusion with a guy 50 rungs down on the campaign — not that I’m saying it happened, but, if it did, I don’t know — I don’t know what that means."
Since joining Trump's legal team, Giuliani has developed a reputation for buzz-worthy television appearances. This weekend proved no exception.