Is Trump capable of doing a genuine act of kindness with no thought of reward?

There are many stories about the heavy drinking of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani. The latest comes from yet another book about the Trump administration. This is by Geoffrey Berman, a former US attorney for the southern district of New York.

At a law firm dinner in New York in May 2016, an “unhinged” Rudy Giuliani, then Donald Trump’s suggested pick to head a commission on “radical Islamic terrorism”, behaved in a drunken and Islamophobic manner, horrifying clients and attorneys alike.

According to a new book by Geoffrey Berman, a former US attorney for the southern district of New York (SDNY), at one point Giuliani turned to a Jewish man “wearing a yarmulke [who] had ordered a kosher meal” and, under the impression the man was a Muslim, said: “I’m sorry to have tell you this, but the founder of your religion is a murderer.”

“It was unbelievable,” Berman writes. “Rudy was unhinged. A pall fell over the room.”

Giuliani had just joined Berman’s law firm. Berman writes that he organised a “cross-selling dinner”, to introduce the former mayor and other new lawyers to clients “at a large financial institution”.

Giuliani behaved well to start with, Berman says, but he “continued to drink” and “shifted the conversation to his work for Trump on immigration”. For Berman, the dinner became “an utter and complete train wreck”.

Giuliani, Berman writes, shared a “wholly inaccurate, alt-right history of the creation and development of Islam, stating that it was an inherently violent religion from its origins to today”.
To growing consternation among guests, Giuliani produced his phone and “showed the group drawings of violent acts purportedly committed by Muslims”.

There followed the exchange with the man in the yarmulke, who “for some reason, Rudy thought … was Muslim”, even though as a two-term mayor of New York, in Berman’s words, Giuliani “was clearly acquainted with Jews”.

In the book, Berman goes after Trump’s attorney general Bill Barr, who is currently trying to rehabilitate his image of being a Trump toady.

Berman is a Republican. He volunteered on Trump’s 2016 campaign and was once a law partner of Giuliani. He is also a former editor of the Stanford Law Review, happy to punch up. As with most Trump memoirs, Holding the Line is full of score-settling. Berman calls Barr a liar, a bully and a thug.

Writing about his dismissal, Berman says: “I would describe Barr’s posture that morning as thuggish. He wanted to bludgeon me into submission.”

“If you do not resign from your position, you will be fired,” Barr purportedly warned. “That will not be good for your resume and future job prospects.”

“Several hours after Barr and I met,” he writes, “on a Friday night, [Barr] issued a press release saying that I was stepping down. That was a lie.”

“A lie told by the nation’s top law enforcement officer.”

However, I was skeptical about this report about an excerpt from another forthcoming book that deals with a specific episode involving Trump.

Depressed and drinking to excess after the failure of his run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, Rudy Giuliani secretly recovered at the Florida home of a close friend and ally – Donald Trump.

“We moved into Mar-a-Lago and Donald kept our secret,” Giuliani’s third wife, Judith Giuliani, says in a new book.

In 2018, Giuliani told the New York Times he “spent a month at Mar-a-Lago, relaxing” after the primary a decade before. He has not otherwise discussed the period.

Judith Giuliani tells Kirtzman her husband fell into “what, I knew as a nurse, was a clinical depression”.

“She said he started to drink more heavily,” Kirtzman writes. “While Giuliani was always fond of drinking scotch with his cigars while holding court at the Grand Havana or Club Mac, his friends never considered him a problem drinker. Judith felt he was drinking to dull the pain.”

Kirtzman’s reporting of Giuliani’s little-known 2008 stay at Mar-a-Lago – a period when in Giuliani’s ex-wife’s words he was both speaking to therapists and “always falling shitfaced somewhere” – also prefigures Giuliani’s current role in American public life, as a chaotic, picaresque Trump booster seemingly impervious to personal or political embarrassment.

Trump is a lifelong teetotaler but also a longtime Giuliani ally. In 2008, Kirtzman says, as Giuliani was struggling even to get out of bed, Trump came to his rescue.

Why am I skeptical? For two reasons. One is that all the evidence is that Trump’s relationships are always transactional, that quid pro quos are the norm. The idea of him helping someone without expecting something in return seems very out of character.

The second reason is that Trump is terrible at keeping secrets, except those that are important to his own survival and benefit. To have kept quiet about an act of kindness to someone seems completely out of character. He is more likely to boast about the incident as showing what a nice person he is.

If the story does turn out to be true, that would be a rare fact about Trump that reveals him to be not entirely self-centered. But what may be the case is that since Giuliani has been Trump’s crony and sort-of attorney for a long time, he may know damaging things about Trump that requires Trump to keep him within the fold, so that Giuliani does not turn on him and give evidence to the authorities. So we would be back to the more plausible and consistent transactional relationships.


  1. moarscienceplz says

    At the multimillionaire/billionaire level ALL relationships are transactional. I read somewhere that the initiation fee alone to become a member at Mar-a-lago is $200,000, although it was probably less before the orange greaseball became President. You don’t find customers with that kind of scratch by advertising in the newspaper or on TV. You have to know people who know people. Also, since Optimus Crime has defaulted on so many loans, he has a hard time finding bankers who will work with him. Who better than a former mayor of New York (who was still riding high in the nation’s esteem because of 9/11 at that time) to get Trump an introduction to new bank officers? Plus, what did it cost Trump? He had this bungalow that was outside the official grounds of the resort, so he really couldn’t rent it out to paying customers. Just toss the keys to Rudy, keep your mouth shut about it, and maybe you get one more lifeline to bail out your constantly failing business empire. Sounds like a very good bet to me.

  2. jenorafeuer says

    From some of what I’ve heard, alcoholism may be one of the only cases where Trump might actually do that. As was noted above, Trump is a lifelong teetotaler, and has had family experiences with alcoholism which reinforce that: his older brother Fred Trump Jr. was an alcoholic and that was what eventually killed him. Trump does have occasional breaks in his usual narcissism for immediate family, and does seem to have cared for his brother in some sense (even if he actively helped cut said brother out of the will), so Giuliani’s actions reminding Trump of his late older brother could have stirred him to actions he otherwise wouldn’t have taken.

    The ‘can’t keep a secret’ argument is a little harder to dismiss, of course.

  3. Tethys says

    Trump is a textbook dry-drunk, which is very common among the children of alcoholics.
    He was a huge coke head back in the day, and displays all the behaviors associated with alcoholism and addicts.

    Lie about everything, routinely.
    Nothing is ever their fault.

  4. John Morales says

    Capable, probably.

    I’m perfectly capable of doing things I don’t actually do, as well.

    Besides, that’s an opinion more than a report, and there is more than one interpretation.

    Trump is a lifelong teetotaler but also a longtime Giuliani ally. In 2008, Kirtzman says, as Giuliani was struggling even to get out of bed, Trump came to his rescue.

    Seems to me Trump got kompromat on Giuliani thereby, as well has indebting Giuliani for some future quid pro quo considerations. Now Giuliani owes him. And, as moarscienceplz notes, it cost him very little.

    In short, there’s nothing stopping those facts from being seen as entirely transactional, rather than kindness.

  5. Holms says

    Perhaps he was years ago, though even then we know he was still vain and needy… but no, not any more. The narcissism has won and consumed all else.

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