Dec 23, 2018

Trump's Bill Clinton defense

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Floating possible future defenses, Rudy Giuliani is invoking Republican overreach against Bill Clinton in arguing that President Trump's use of hush money during the campaign is "a non-crime."

What he's saying: The comparison, Giuliani told me, is "an extraordinary intrusion into what we regard as our private lives."

  • "The law says that if there's another purpose [for the payment], it's not a campaign contribution," Giuliani said. "Here, the purpose was to protect you against your wife. Protect her from embarrassment. Protect your family from embarrassment. Protect your business from embarrassment."
  • "Members of Congress use campaign funds to settle harassment claims," Giuliani added. "They're going to be the ones to impeach him?"

Giuliani recalled that he was the Republican mayor of New York when House Republicans impeached Bill Clinton in 1998. He thought that his party was making "a critical error" by making it a partisan issue.

  • "Bill Clinton used it very well against us," Giuliani said. "We ultimately got killed [politically], and should have."

Giuliani said the Trump hush money issue is "less serious," because Clinton "committed a definable crime," perjury.

  • Giuliani argues that Michael Cohen's "payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, whether the president knew or didn't know, there's nothing illegal about them."
  • Giuliani said a closer comparison than Clinton is the case of former Democratic candidate John Edwards, who in 2012 was cleared of corruption charges after he used campaign funds to hide an affair.
  • "He didn't want his wife to know," Giuliani said. "'He didn't want [Rielle Hunter] to go public and embarrass him. All those reasons exist in the Trump situation."

Reality check: Federal prosecutors say Trump directed illegal payments to ward off a sex scandal, and many experts believe he knowingly violated campaign-finance law.

Giuliani describes the investigation as concentric circles, starting with collusion, then moving to obstruction, on to campaign finance and now "prior business deals."

  • "We’re now three degrees of separation from collusion, and we ain’t found a crime yet," he said. "This is an investigation of a man in search of a crime, and they haven’t found one."
  • "When a man becomes president, he shouldn’t be subject to a review of his entire life."

Go deeper

"It was 30 years ago, get over it": Mike Bloomberg's partner brushes off NDA concerns

Diana Taylor at a Mike Bloomberg event last month. Photo: Ron Adar/Echoes Wire/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Diana Taylor, Mike Bloomberg's longtime partner, dismissed the concerns surrounding non-disclosure agreements used at his company, Bloomberg LP, telling CBS News that she would say to those bothered by the allegations, "It was 30 years ago, get over it."

Why it matters: Democratic candidates have used the NDAs as a talking point against Bloomberg, calling on him to allow women to speak about the reported sexual harassment and gender discrimination they faced while working for him.

Trump's opportunity to use Bernie as an economic scapegoat

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photos: Zach Gibson/Stringer, The Washington Post/Getty Contributor

Bernie Sanders is poised to become an economic scapegoat for both the White House and Corporate America, assuming that Sanders comes through Super Tuesday unscathed.

The big picture: If the U.S. economy remains strong, President Trump and CEOs will claim credit (as they've been doing for three years). If it turns sour, they'll blame Bernie (even though it's a largely baseless charge).

Why big banks are breaking up with some fossil fuels

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

JPMorgan Chase is the latest financial giant to unveil new climate commitments, and like its peers, it is hard to disentangle how much is motivated by pressure, conscience or making a virtue of necessity.

Why it matters: The move comes as grassroots and shareholder activists are targeting the financial sector's fossil energy finance, especially amid federal inaction on climate.