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Incompetent or devious? Rudy Giuliani bewilders Washington as Trump spokesman

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WASHINGTON—“America’s Mayor” has become Washington’s mystery.

Specifically: what the heck is going on with Rudy Giuliani?

Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor, has emerged as one of the most prominent public spokespeople for U.S. President Donald Trump. He is shown here at the White House in July as Trump announces his Supreme Court nominee.
Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor, has emerged as one of the most prominent public spokespeople for U.S. President Donald Trump. He is shown here at the White House in July as Trump announces his Supreme Court nominee.  (SAUL LOEB / AFP/GETTY IMAGES FILE PHOTO)

As White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders has receded from view, the former mayor of New York City has emerged as one of the most prominent public spokespeople for U.S. President Donald Trump.

He has made Sean Spicer look smooth.

Giuliani, a federal prosecutor and an associate attorney general in the 1980s, was hired in April to serve as a public pit bull on Trump’s legal team. Since then, he has sputtered out misstatements and clarifications so frequent and so head-spinning that some observers wonder if he is intentionally attempting to confuse people.

The general consensus seems to favour the simplest explanation: Giuliani is not trying to muddy the waters, just mucking things up.

“He was generally viewed as a smart guy and a skilled lawyer. There are very few traces of those qualities in his representation of Donald Trump,” lawyer Michael Bromwich, who worked under Giuliani in the federal prosecutor’s office, said in an email. (Bromwich now represents former FBI official Andrew McCabe and professor Christine Blasey Ford, both of whom Trump has criticized.) “He seems not well-steeped in the facts and poorly prepared for his many press interviews. Criminal defence lawyers generally don’t wing it; they harm their client’s interests when they do. Rudy appears to be winging it.”

Trump’s continued tolerance for Giuliani’s careless chattiness has confounded both the president’s aides and veteran political communicators.

“I don’t know why the president would allow him to go out and continue to talk,” said Rick Tyler, a former Republican spokesman and now a MSNBC political analyst.

Tyler said Giuliani is “out of control.” But he also said it is an “impossible task” to speak for a president whose lying is so “pathological” that top surrogates won’t work for him.

“Rudy is one of the few who are willing to go out there and damage his own reputation on behalf of the president. There just aren’t many people with stature willing to do that,” Tyler said.

The questions about Giuliani’s aptitude were renewed by bizarre performances in three interviews this week that seemed, again, to worsen Trump’s position.

“One wonders if everything’s all right with Rudy Giuliani,” Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly said on CNN, adding, “He sounds like a crazy old uncle.”

Speaking to the New York Times, Giuliani said Trump’s discussions about building a Trump Tower in Moscow continued through the 2016 election, months longer than former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen has publicly specified. Adopting Trump’s voice, Giuliani said Trump told him the talks happened “from the day I announced to the day I won.”

The next day, Giuliani said he was not speaking for Trump at all. His previous words, he claimed, “were hypothetical, and not based on conversations I had with the president.”

In a Monday interview with the New Yorker, Giuliani mentioned going through “tapes” related to Trump and Cohen, then said “I shouldn’t have said tapes,” then said there are “no tapes,” then said there are unrelated tapes. He also claimed there were “no plans” and “no drafts” for the Moscow tower; detailed plans were published Tuesday by BuzzFeed. Last Wednesday, Giuliani said on CNN that he had “never said there was no collusion between the campaign or between people in the campaign,” appearing to hint at the possibility of collusion by people other than Trump; the next day, he issued a statement saying he had “no knowledge” of any such collusion.

Some associates lament that Giuliani is damaging the reputation he built after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks. Giuliani told the New Yorker that he thinks his legacy might indeed be hurt.

“I am afraid it will be on my gravestone. ‘Rudy Giuliani: He lied for Trump.’ Somehow, I don’t think that will be it. But, if it is, so what do I care? I’ll be dead. I figure I can explain it to St. Peter,” he said.

He soon walked this back too, saying he was just joking.

Daniel Dale is the Star’s Washington bureau chief. He covers U.S. politics and current affairs. Follow him on Twitter: @ddale8

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‘Business as usual’ for Dorel Industries after terminating go-private deal

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MONTREAL — Dorel Industries Inc. says it will continue to pursue its business strategy going forward after terminating an agreement to go private after discussions with shareholders.

« Moving ahead. Business as usual, » a spokesman for the company said in an email on Monday.

A group led by Cerberus Capital Management had previously agreed to buy outstanding shares of Dorel for $16 apiece, except for shares owned by the family that controls the company’s multiple-voting shares.

But Dorel chief executive Martin Schwartz said the Montreal-based maker of car seats, strollers, bicycles and home furniture pulled the plug on a deal on the eve of Tuesday’s special meeting after reviewing votes from shareholders.

“Independent shareholders have clearly expressed their confidence in Dorel’s future and the greater potential for Dorel as a public entity, » he said in a news release.

Dorel’s board of directors, with Martin Schwartz, Alan Schwartz, Jeffrey Schwartz and Jeff Segel recused, unanimously approved the deal’s termination upon the recommendation of a special committee.

The transaction required approval by two-thirds of the votes cast, and more than 50 per cent of the votes cast by non-family shareholders.

Schwartz said enhancing shareholder value remains a top priority while it stays focused on growing its brands, which include Schwinn and Mongoose bikes, Safety 1st-brand car seats and DHP Furniture.

Dorel said the move to end the go-private deal was mutual, despite the funds’ increased purchase price offer earlier this year.

It said there is no break fee applicable in this case.

Montreal-based investment firm Letko, Brosseau & Associates Inc. and San Diego’s Brandes Investment Partners LP, which together control more than 19 per cent of Dorel’s outstanding class B subordinate shares voiced their opposition to the amended offer, which was increased from the initial Nov. 2 offer of $14.50 per share.

« We believe that several minority shareholders shared our opinion, » said Letko vice-president Stephane Lebrun, during a phone interview.

« We are confident of the long-term potential of the company and we have confidence in the managers in place.”

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Anglais

Pandemic funds helping Montreal businesses build for a better tomorrow

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Many entrepreneurs have had to tap into government loans during the pandemic, at first just to survive, but now some are using the money to better prepare their businesses for the post-COVID future.

One of those businesses is Del Friscos, a popular family restaurant in Dollard-des-Ormeaux that, like many Montreal-area restaurants, has had to adapt from a sit-down establishment to one that takes orders online for takeout or delivery.

“It was hard going from totally in-house seating,” said Del Friscos co-owner Terry Konstas. “We didn’t have an in-house delivery system, which we quickly added. There were so many of our employees that were laid off that wanted to work so we adapted to a delivery system and added platforms like Uber and DoorDash.”

Helping them through the transition were emergency grants and low-interest loans from the federal and provincial governments, some of which are directly administered by PME MTL, a non-profit business-development organization established to assist the island’s small and medium-sized businesses.

Konstas said he had never even heard of PME MTL until a customer told him about them and when he got in touch, he discovered there were many government programs available to help his business get through the downturn and build for the future. “They’ve been very helpful right from day one,” said Konstas.

“We used some of the funds to catch up on our suppliers and our rents, the part that wasn’t covered from the federal side, and we used some of it for our new virtual concepts,” he said, referring to a virtual kitchen model which the restaurant has since adopted.

The virtual kitchen lets them create completely different menu items from the casual American Italian dishes that Del Friscos is known for and market them under different restaurant brand names. Under the Prasinó Soup & Salad banner, they sell healthy Greek options and their Stallone’s Sub Shop brand offers hearty sandwiches, yet the food from both is created in the same Del Friscos kitchen.

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Downtown Montreal office, retail vacancies continue to rise

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Some of downtown Montreal’s key economic indicators are heading in the wrong direction.

Office and retail vacancies in the city’s central core continued to climb in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to a quarterly report released Thursday by the Urban Development Institute of Quebec and the Montréal Centre-Ville merchants association. The report, whose first edition was published in October, aims to paint a socio-economic picture of the downtown area.

The survey also found office space available for sublet had increased during the fourth quarter, which may foreshadow even more vacancies when leases expire. On the residential front, condo sales fell as new listings soared — a sign that the downtown area may be losing some of its appeal to homeowners.

“It’s impossible not to be preoccupied by the rapid increase in office vacancies,” Jean-Marc Fournier, the former Quebec politician who now heads the UDI, said Thursday in an interview.

Still, with COVID-19 vaccinations set to accelerate in the coming months, “the economic picture is bound to improve,” he said. “People will start returning downtown. It’s much too early to say the office market is going to disappear.”

Public health measures implemented since the start of the pandemic almost a year ago — such as caps on office capacity — have deprived downtown Montreal of more than 500,000 workers and students. A mere 4,163 university and CEGEP students attended in-person classes in the second quarter, the most recent period for which figures are available. Border closures and travel restrictions have also brought tourism to a standstill, hurting hotels and thousands of local businesses.

Seventy per cent of downtown workers carried out their professional activities at home more than three days a week during the fourth quarter, the report said, citing an online survey of 1,000 Montreal-area residents conducted last month.

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