Rudolph Giuliani was once a man of substance. A man of integrity. He served as the U.S. Associate Attorney General from 1981 to 1983 and as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York from 1983 to 1989. In the latter role, he led the 1980s federal prosecution of New York mafia bosses.

He eventually became a highly respected New York City mayor, and for his leadership after the 9/11 attacks he was named by Time magazine as their “Person of the Year” and widely acclaimed as “America’s mayor.”

This week in federal district court in Washington D.C., he was found liable for defamation and civil conspiracy for making false statements about two Georgia election workers. He was fined $148 million dollars. He admitted that, while working on behalf of Donald Trump, he spread lies about the two women.

His legal troubles are only beginning. He is charged, along with 17 other Trump lawyers, advisers and affiliates and with Trump himself, with participating in a “criminal enterprise in Fulton County, Georgia—and elsewhere—to accomplish the illegal goal” of keeping Trump in office. Ironically, each defendant faces a racketeering charge, a tactic Giuliani made frequent use of as a prosecutor.

What happened to America’s mayor? How did he fall from post-9/11 hero to derided criminal defendant? Donald Trump happened. Giuliani became a MAGA man.

He is only one of many Trump casualties. Eleven allies of and advisers to the former president have been convicted or pleaded guilty to various offences, including his one-time fixer, Michael Cohen; a national security advisor, Michael Flynn; and longtime chief financial officer for the Trump Organization, Allen Weisselberg.

Some of these scoundrels may have been crooks to begin with, but all have been corrupted by their association with Trump. He’s just one of those guys who if you get too close to you get dirty. They may be ordinary, like Jeffrey Epstein, or extraordinary like Adolf Hitler, but they all have charisma. And they all tell big lies to which they demand fealty.

Parents often blame their kids misbehaviour on their getting in with bad company. Well, adults, too, can get in with bad company and be led, perhaps willingly, astray.

The question with Trump is just how contagious his toxicity is. How close do you have to get to breath in the bad air. Most of the Republican Party seems to have gotten too close. For many Americans it seems just going to a rally will do it.

It is a plague, a MAGA plague, vastly more dangerous than COVID, affecting the mind and the soul rather than the body. It infected the entire nation once with serious consequences. The next time could prove fatal.

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