Rudy Giuliani guilty? That’s what they want you to think! And who are they? The sinister cabal of Hunter Biden, the Lincoln Project and Department of Injustice, of course.
That would have been the impression of Fox News viewers on Thursday night when Giuliani gave his first TV interview since federal agents seized mobile phones and computers from his New York apartment, part of an investigation into his dodgy Ukrainian dealings.
The host was Tucker Carlson, whose smirking sympathy for the white supremacist “great replacement” theory, and insistence that making kids wear face masks is “child abuse”, have made him the true heir to Donald Trump as the rightwing conspiracy-theory king.
A split screen of Carlson and Giuliani was not for the faint hearted. The former maintained his notorious expression, eyebrows furrowed, mouth open just enough to catch a fly. Giuliani, in suit and tie with white handkerchief in top pocket, was in his office, a bald eagle model and books including his own on display. Wearing a ring on his little finger, he played nervously with his spectacles.
What the former New York mayor turned legal hatchet man for Trump had to say didn’t make much sense, but left viewers with the notion that somehow it was all Hunter’s fault, so in that sense it was a great success. Such was the fixation that at one point Giuliani even said “Hunter” rather than “Tucker” by mistake.
First, Carlson tried to coax Giuliani into a poignant, heart-tugging account of having his home raided at dawn. The ex-mayor, who on 9/11 touched everyone with his lament “the number of casualties will be more than any of us can bear”, is less limpid these days.
“Well, about six o’clock in the morning, there was a big bang! bang! bang! on the door and outside were seven FBI agents with a warrant for electronics,” he recalled. “And I looked at the warrant and I said it was extraordinary because I offered to give these to the government and talk it over with them for two years.
“I don’t know why they have to do this. The agents seemed somewhat apologetic. They were very, very professional and very gentlemanly.”
The FBI agents had taken seven or eight electronic devices, he went on, but had not been interested in hard drives that, Giuliani claims, contain evidence of Hunter’s wrongdoing. He offered them over and over but still they refused. Could it be they don’t spend their days watching Fox or diving down rightwing blog rabbit holes?
Giuliani led an effort to dig up dirt on Joe Biden and his son Hunter in Ukraine before last year’s election. Prosecutors are investigating whether he illegally lobbied the Trump administration on behalf of Ukrainian officials and oligarchs while also serving as Trump’s personal lawyer.
Ingeniously, Carlson and Giuliani cooked up the argument that Hunter’s position on the board of a Ukrainian gas company, and his fight against drug addiction, were equally worthy of a dawn raid. “We have a picture of him five days before, smoking a crack pipe behind the wheel of a car and then saying under oath that he’s not an addict.
“And it’s the left that gets all perturbed about people who are mentally unstable having guns. Well, he was unstable, unfortunately and tragically, I feel sorry for that part of Hunter Biden. I think his father exploited him but the reality is he’s still a danger to the public driving an automobile or holding a gun but they don’t care about that.”
Turning back to his own case, Giuliani said the FBI agents had hammered on his door “in a frightening way” but “I don’t get frightened very easily”. He added: “It is an illegal, unconstitutional warrant, one of many that this Department of Injustice tragically has done.”
The search warrant was, he said, “purportedly based on one single failure to file for representing a Ukrainian national or official that I never represented”.
Carlson sneeringly suggested that the Lincoln Project, a group of anti-Trump Republican consultants, had known in advance about the raid but noted that Biden says he did not. Giuliani duly scored more Fox points by mocking the president’s age: “Maybe he doesn’t remember. I’m not sure if he can retain anything for more than about the time it takes to read it.”
And so it went on, deflated campaign slogans for an election that was lost six months ago when Giuliani ended up at Four Seasons Total Landscaping outside Philadelphia. “Thirty years of the Biden crime family violating our laws. That is what’s on the hard drive that they have censored and that’s why they want to put me in jail.”
Giuliani claimed his iCloud account had been snooped upon in the middle of his attempt to defend Trump against impeachment (the first time around, for those who are counting). Cue a rapid escalation to comparisons with the Stasi.
“The prosecutors at the justice department spied on me and that is not taken seriously. If that doesn’t result in their being sanctioned, the case being dismissed and it stopping, this is no longer a free country. We might as well be in East Berlin before the wall fell. This is tactics only known in a dictatorship, where you seize a lawyer’s records right in the middle of his representation of his client.”
After 10 minutes that felt like 10 years, the interview was done, not likely to join the annals of David Frost and Richard Nixon. Even so, it was manna from heaven for a certain viewer at Mar-a-Lago in Florida. For these guys, he’s still the one that counts.