Thursday, May 3, 2018

UPDATE, 5/5: Giuliani's remarks on Thursday included the assertion that the hostages would be freed that day, which didn't come to pass. Part of the reason is that by raising expectations for the prisoners' release, Giuliani and Trump have given North Korea extra political leverage over Trump on the matter.

Pressed for comment, Giuliani admitted he didn't know anything about the state of negotiations beyond what he'd read in the newspapers: "I wasn’t made secretary of state, so I’m not conducting foreign policy,” he said.

What did Donald Trump do today?

He sent his personal lawyer out to do the State Department's job.

Following last night's catastrophic appearance on Hannity, Trump's new lead lawyer Rudy Giuliani spent the morning doing damage control on Fox & Friends. (From a legal perspective, it probably made things worse for Trump--Giuliani torpedoed his own claim that the Stormy Daniels hush money payment had nothing to do with the election by pointing out how damaging it would have been if news of Trump's affair with Daniels came out... just before the election.)

When the discussion turned to the prospect of Trump receiving a subpoena, one of Giuliani's arguments was that Trump was too busy with his presidential duties to comply:
The President of the United States is getting ready to negotiate one of our historic agreements since opening of China, and we got Kim Jong Un impressed enough to be releasing three prisoners today, and I have got to go there and Jay Sekulow and we have to go there and prepare him for this silly deposition.
Giuliani is not a government official and has no security clearance, so it's difficult to know how seriously to take this claim. So far, there has been no official announcement by the White House about any release of prisoners, although it is a very common tactic by North Korea, which seems to collect Western prisoners just so that it can use their release as diplomatic bargaining chips. But Trump himself teased the same thing yesterday, referring to the same number of prisoners:
Two of the three hostages were captured during the Trump administration, not "the past Administration." It's not entirely clear whether Trump was deliberately lying about this, or simply wasn't aware that two Americans were taken prisoner by North Korea on his watch.

Why is this a problem?

  • The presidency is not a get-out-of-jail-free card.
  • American diplomacy is too important to leave to a private lawyer with an agenda.
  • It's wrong to blame your predecessors for things that happened on your watch.