If President Donald Trump doesn’t want Senate Republicans to join Democrats in voting to convict him in his upcoming second impeachment trial then he better make sure his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani isn’t involved in his defense. That was the message veteran Republican strategist Karl Rove espoused Sunday in which he made clear that Giuliani’s involvement would only increase the chance of a conviction. The warning comes amid reports that Trump is having trouble finding lawyers who will defend him as those who represented him in the first trial aren’t apparently interested in participating in the sequel.
In an appearance on Fox News Sunday, Rove said that it was clear “every Republican senator needs to take this seriously.” Ultimately, he said, “it’s all going to boil down to what the president’s defense is.” Giuliani “charted a very bad course,” noting comments that the president’s attorney said claiming Trump couldn’t have incited the riots at the Capitol because his baseless claims of voter fraud were true. That defense isn’t going to work considering the voter fraud claims “have been rejected by over 50 courts with judges appointed by President Trump, President Obama, President Bush, President Clinton, and I think even one Reagan justice.”
So if Giuliani pushes forward that message more Republicans are likely to join Democrats in voting for a conviction. “Because essentially that argument is, this was justified, the attack on the Capitol and the attempt to end the congressional hearing on certifying the election was justified because all these charges are true. And frankly, they aren’t,” Rove, who served as deputy chief of staff in George W. Bush’s White House, said. “I think it really boils down to what’s the defense that the president is going to make,” he added. “And if it’s Rudy Giuliani’s defense, I think it raises the likelihood of more than 17 Republicans voting for conviction.” Ten Republican lawmakers joined all the Democrats in the House of Representatives last week to vote in favor of impeaching Trump.
Rove made his feelings known amid some apparent disagreements between Giuliani and Trump’s team about whether the president’s personal lawyer will be involved in the Senate trial. Giuliani told ABC News without hesitating that he was part of the president’s defense team. The former mayor claimed there are “different opinion” about how Trump should be defended but as far as he was concerned the key would be to argue the validity of the voter fraud allegations. “They basically claimed that anytime [Trump] says voter fraud, voter fraud—or I do, or anybody else—we’re inciting to violence; that those words are fighting words because it’s totally untrue,” he said. “Well, if you can prove that it’s true, or at least true enough so it’s a legitimate viewpoint, then they are no longer fighting words.”
Shortly after the ABC News story was published, Hogan Gidley, who was Trump’s reelection campaign press secretary, published a tweet that appeared to contradict Giuliani. “President Trump has not yet made a determination as to which lawyer or law firm will represent him for the disgraceful attack on our Constitution and democracy,” he said.
Support work like this for just $1
Slate is covering the stories that matter to you. Become a Slate Plus member to support our work. Your first month is only $1.