What Rudy Giuliani's rants can't do for Trump

Giuliani says Mueller agreed to limit interview
Giuliani says Mueller agreed to limit interview

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Giuliani says Mueller agreed to limit interview 02:08

Errol Louis is the host of "Inside City Hall," a nightly political show on NY1, a New York all-news channel. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own.

(CNN)It's safe to assume that the bull-in-a-china-shop style of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani is precisely what his new legal client, President Donald Trump, wants in a defender. But what works for Trump in the short term could prove to be a long-term political headache.

In sharp contrast to former attorneys for the President -- several of whom have resigned -- Giuliani has dropped any pretense of cooperation with special counsel Robert Mueller's probe of possible links between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives.
"Mueller should now bring this to a close," Giuliani said this week in a Fox News interview. "It's been a year. He's gotten 1.4 million documents, he's interviewed 28 witnesses. And he has nothing, which is why he wants to bring the President into an interview."
That's what a good lawyer would say. It happens to be not quite true.
    Avenatti on Giuliani: None of this makes sense
    Avenatti on Giuliani: None of this makes sense

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    Avenatti on Giuliani: None of this makes sense 01:54
    Over the last year, Mueller's office has charged 19 people and three Russian companies with federal crimes. Trump's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, has pleaded guilty. So has his deputy campaign chairman, Rick Gates, and a former campaign aide, George Papadopoulos. All three men are now cooperating with the probe.
    Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, has been charged and is under house arrest, facing charges including bank fraud, tax fraud and money-laundering. He's scheduled to go on trial in July.
    That's not nothing -- far from it.
    And we still don't know what will come of the raid in which FBI agents seized computers, phones and records from the President's longtime personal lawyer and "fixer," Michael Cohen.
    Giuliani has also strayed from the facts in his recent assertion that Mueller cannot compel Trump to respond to a subpoena and testify under oath.
    "They could probably require documents to be produced. That's what was required of Nixon," Giuliani said. "We've provided 1.4 million documents. They probably could require you to testify in a civil case, possibly even as a witness in a criminal case, but they can't require you to testify in what would be your own case because, after all, it's all about a possible impeachment."
    Who is Rudy Giuliani?
    Who is Rudy Giuliani?

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      Who is Rudy Giuliani?

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    Who is Rudy Giuliani? 01:31
    Not so. In 1974, the Supreme Court ruled that President Richard Nixon had to comply with a subpoena for tapes of conversations recorded in the Oval Office private locations. In 1998, President Bill Clinton defused a showdown with special prosecutor Kenneth Starr, who wanted to subpoena him, by agreeing to testify.
    There isn't a lot of precedent to rely on, but as one law professor from Duke University put it: "It's not accurate to say that sitting presidents never have to comply with subpoenas. They have and they do."
    While it might seem like a bad idea for Giuliani to defend Trump by making outlandish assertions, the strategy has generally worked for Trump over the years.
    As a young man, facing charges of racial discrimination in his real estate business, Trump turned to a pit bull of a lawyer, Roy Cohn, who counseled Trump to battle the charges no matter what. In the end, the Trump Organization settled the matter without admitting guilt -- the first of many times that Trump would employ a strategy of never apologizing for anything.
    Cohn died years ago, but Trump has found a successor in the form of Giuliani. In the lowest moment of the 2016 campaign, when the "Access Hollywood" video surfaced with Trump boasting of molesting women, Giuliani was one of the few campaign aides who took to the airwaves to defend him.
    That same attitude now leads Giuliani to concoct fanciful -- and utterly erroneous -- legal theories to "explain" why the Mueller probe is a failure and why presidents can't be subpoenaed.
    That might buy Trump a momentary reprieve among his followers. But more than two-thirds of Americans support the Mueller probe, and no amount of bluster from the President or his pit bull attorney is likely to change that.
    All of which means Giuliani may be giving Trump the defense he wants -- but not the end of the Mueller probe that he needs.