Is Rudy Giuliani trying to save Trump or get him impeached?
The president's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, pictured in July 2018, suggested Cohen was lying. (AFP/File / SAUL LOEB)

Apparent admissions by Donald Trump's lawyer that the president negotiated a Moscow property deal all through the 2016 election, and that aides may have colluded with Russia, have Washington asking: is Rudy Giuliani going to save Trump or get him impeached?


Giuliani, who last year claimed that "truth isn't truth" to explain why Trump shouldn't testify to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia meddling investigation, has confounded political and legal analysts.

And his most recent spate of comments to journalists -- some of which gave rise to suspicions of "drunk texting" -- have reportedly frayed his support in the White House.

Reporters for Politico and Vanity Fair wrote Tuesday that Trump was "apoplectic" and that powerful figures in the White House were gunning for Giuliani's dismissal.

But some see a method in what has been called Giuliani's "insanity": that he aims to undermine the impact of any criminal allegations Mueller makes, to fend off Trump's removal from office by the US Senate.

Giuliani's strategy "is a political one, not a legal one," lawyers Mimi Rocah and Joyce Vance wrote on the NBC News website.

"None of what he does is meant to convince a judge or a jury. It is meant to confuse the issues, to inoculate people against shocking news before it arrives, and to retain the president's good standing with his base."

- 'Hypothetical' statements -

Confuse is what the 74-year old attorney and former New York mayor did over the past two weeks. In interviews, texts and tweets, he appeared to move the Russia investigation further ahead than Mueller himself has.

He seemed to admit that members of Trump's 2016 election campaign did collude with Russia.

"I never said there was no collusion between the campaign or between people in the campaign," he told CNN. "I said the president of the United States. There is not a single bit of evidence the president of the United States" colluded with Russia.

Days later, he told The New York Times that Trump himself admitted to pursuing a deal for a 100-story Trump Tower in the Russian capital right up to the day of the 2016 presidential vote -- a contradiction of Trump's earlier denials of contacts with Russia during the campaign.

Giuliani then backtracked.

"I have no knowledge of any collusion by any of the thousands of people who worked on the campaign," he said after the CNN interview.

And on Monday, he said the Moscow project comments "were hypothetical and not based on conversations I had with the president."

- Pattern of gaffes -

The gaffes and walk-backs have been a feature of Giuliani's lawyering since agreeing to work for the president for free early last year.

Early on, he said Trump had funded a hush payment made in 2016 to an alleged former lover, undermining previous denials.

Trump claimed Giuliani "had just started, and he wasn't totally familiar with every everything."

But the attorney was right, and the admission softened the political blow when, months later, Mueller showed he had evidence that Trump ordered the payment.

Other supposed mistakes have likewise cushioned the steady revelations about Trump and his advisors.

And they allow Giuliani to jump ahead with his oft-repeated line: "Even if it's true, it's not criminal," as he told The New Yorker on Monday.

Yet his comments open more questions than they close. If Mueller, as he says, can't indict a president, is he saying there is something to indict?

"I do have a mastery of the facts, which is why I can spin them honestly, argue them several different ways," he explained to Politico this week.

- One-time presidential prospect -

Even if it is pro bono, Giuliani's success defending Trump could determine his reputation, after decades in the limelight as a prosecutor and politician.

He made his name in the 1980s as the powerful US attorney for Manhattan, pursuing graft-mired politicians, entrenched New York mafia families, and corrupt Wall Street financiers.

He captured the New York mayorship in 1993. New Yorkers loved his cantankerous ways, and he spent his time doing deals in the smoke-filled Grand Havana Room, a Fifth Avenue haunt for cigar lovers.

When the devastating Al-Qaeda 9/11 attacks happened, Giuliani gained national prominence by helping salve the shocked city's soul.

"We've undergone tremendous losses, and we're going to grieve for them horribly, but New York is going to be here tomorrow morning, and it's going to be here forever," he declared.

Time Magazine named him "Person of the Year" and Oprah Winfrey dubbed him "America's mayor" -- immediately endowing him with presidential prospects.

But when his chance came in 2008, he flubbed his campaign for the Republican nomination.

Giuliani acknowledges representing Trump could be his legacy.

"I am afraid it will be on my gravestone. "Rudy Giuliani: He lied for Trump," he told The New Yorker Monday.

"If it is, so what do I care? I'll be dead. I figure I can explain it to St. Peter."