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Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

With his constant commentating and public negotiating, Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani is setting up unmeetable expectations for special counsel Robert Mueller — a kind of insurance policy with the president's base.

What he's saying: The former New York mayor told Fox News' Sean Hannity in an interview last night that the investigation should be "over by September," and that Mueller's case "isn’t going to fizzle. It's going to blow up on them." He added, "[T]here's a lot more to what they did that nobody knows about yet ... a lot more to the obstruction of justice, to the collusion, to the fake dossier."

Giuliani told Axios that there are two topics the president's lawyers want to rule out in order to agree to a Trump sit-down with Mueller:

  1. Why Trump fired FBI Director James Comey.
  2. What Trump said to Comey about the investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Giuliani mentioned those as if they were minor details — totally reasonable areas for Mueller to agree to avoid.

  • In fact, they’re central to the question of whether Trump obstructed justice.

So here's how to read between the lines of Giuliani's frequent media appearances:

  1. Rudy is pushing and pulling Mueller, and every day throws more mud over the investigation.
  2. The mayor is exploiting Mueller’s silence. Because Mueller can’t and won’t discuss the investigation, Rudy gets to monopolize the airwaves and frame the debate on his terms.
  3. Giuliani is publicly rushing Mueller to wrap up his investigation by September, and at the same time trying to rule out some of the key questions Mueller wants to explore with Trump before wrapping up the probe.

Giuliani is also personalizing it, framing everything as Mueller trying to entrap Trump.

  • The theater of going back and forth with Mueller is designed to create a public impression — or at least an impression in the eyes of Republican voters — that Mueller has personal animus towards Trump, and is trying to use legal trickery to steal the election from Trump voters. This is pure P.R.  

Why it matters: Giuliani is publicly setting up Mueller with expectations he must know Mueller can’t meet.

  • There's no way Mueller is wrapping this thing up by Sept. 1.
  • And there's no way Mueller will agree to an interview with Trump on the condition that he won’t ask him two of the critical questions about obstruction of justice.
  • By claiming them as totally reasonable asks, when Mueller ultimately doesn’t deliver by Labor Day, Rudy helps fuel the base’s rage all the way through to midterms.

Be smart: The strategy is working.

  • You see in polls that Trump has made the investigation a red-blue issue.
  • You see it in footage of Republican voters at town halls, echoing the anti-Mueller line.

Go deeper: Rudy late last month on Mueller: "They don't have a goddamn thing."

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Here come Earmarks 2.0

DeLauro at a hearing in May 2020. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The House Appropriations Committee is preparing to restore a limited version of earmarks, which give lawmakers power to direct spending to their districts to pay for special projects.

Why it matters: A series of scandals involving members in both parties prompted a moratorium on earmarks in 2011. But Democrats argue it's worth the risk to bring them back because earmarks would increase their leverage to pass critical legislation with a narrow majority, especially infrastructure and spending bills.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
2 hours ago - Energy & Environment

UN says Paris carbon-cutting plans fall far short

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Nations' formal emissions-cutting pledges are collectively way too weak to put the world on track to meet the Paris climate deal's temperature-limiting target, a United Nations tally shows.

Driving the news: This morning the UN released an analysis of the most recent nationally determined contributions (NDCs) — that is, countries' medium-term emissions targets submitted under the 2015 pact.

Biden condemns Russian aggression on 7th anniversary of Crimea annexation

Putin giving a speech in Sevastapol, Crimea, in 2020. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

President Biden reaffirmed U.S. support for the people of Ukraine and vowed to hold Russia accountable for its aggression in a statement on Friday, the 7th anniversary of Russia's 2014 invasion of Crimea.

Why it matters: The statement reflects the aggressive approach Biden is taking to Russia, which he classified on the campaign trail as an "opponent" and "the biggest threat" to U.S. security and alliances.