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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."
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Go deeper

Former D.C. Guard alleges Army Generals lied about Jan. 6 response

Members of the National Guard and Capitol police keep a small group of pro-Trump demonstrators away from the Capitol following the insurrection on Jan. 6. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

A former D.C. National Guard official has alleged that top Army generals "lied" to Congress in their testimony on the U.S. Capitol riot, Politico first reported Monday.

The big picture: Col. Earl Matthews, who was serving on Jan. 6, alleges in a memo that the official version on the military response is "worthy of the best Stalinist or North Korea propagandist" and that the Pentagon inspector general's November report on it features "myriad inaccuracies, false or misleading statements, or examples of faulty analysis."

Toyota to build $1.3 billion U.S. battery plant in North Carolina

The all-electric Toyota bZ4X, the company's first battery-electric vehicle, at the Los Angeles Auto Show in Los Angeles, California on Nov. 17. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

Toyota announced Monday it's investing $1.3 billion to construct an electric vehicle battery "megasite" near Greensboro, North Carolina, set to open in 2025.

Why it matters: Toyota's Prius hybrid won environmental plaudits when it launched in 1997, but it has since lost ground to electric vehicle world leader Tesla, per Axios' Joann Muller. This battery plant will be the first to produce automotive batteries for Toyota in North America.

6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Congress hunts for shortcut to pass defense funding, debt limit combo

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer returned to his office Monday. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The scramble in Congress to pass the National Defense Authorization Act is being complicated by an effort to tie it to a needed hike in the federal debt limit.

Why it matters: The House and Senate are rapidly coming up against a series of deadlines they must address before the end of the year — or risk disrupting crucial military funding and upending the economy. Congressional leaders are now hoping they can knock out both "must-pass" priorities in one, complex swoop.

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