Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s personal lawyer, appears to be trapped in a rather unforgiving cycle.
In a string of recent interviews concerning the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, Giuliani has repeatedly made headlines for voicing startling claims about the president and his campaign’s alleged involvement in affairs related to Russia, and then quickly attempting to clarify or walk back his statements. Giuliani’s interview approach, punctuated by his contradictory comments, has sparked widespread confusion among the public as well as within the “Trump world.” The Washington Post’s Josh Dawsey reported Monday that a number of people associated with the president are “genuinely perplexed/befuddled/frustrated by Rudy Giuliani’s statements.”
But rather than stepping back from the public eye, Giuliani continued his media blitz on Monday, speaking at length to the New Yorker’s Isaac Chotiner, who wrote that he had called the former New York mayor “to try to understand what he was saying about the Moscow negotiations.”
In the wide-ranging, at times flippant, interview, Giuliani refuted a BuzzFeed report that Trump had told his former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, to lie, saying he had listened to audiotapes, which he then promptly claimed did not exist. Additionally, Giuliani once again distanced himself from the comments he made Sunday in which he said the president and his team had been involved in discussions about the Moscow tower project well into the 2016 election, asserting that even if Trump had participated in those conversations “it wouldn’t be a crime.” Seeming to adopt a more tongue-in-cheek tone, Giuliani also touched on how his legacy could be affected by his job.
“I am afraid it will be on my gravestone,” Giuliani told Chotiner. “‘Rudy Giuliani: He lied for Trump.’”
The piece began with Chotiner asking Giuliani about his response to the explosive BuzzFeed story. The report was published Thursday and has elicited a rare statement from special counsel Robert Mueller’s office, which called it “not accurate.”
“There are no tapes, there are no texts, there is no corroboration that the President told him to lie,” Giuliani said. “That’s why the special counsel said that the story was inaccurate.”
Pressed by Chotiner about how he knew the story was “false,” Giuliani said, “I have been through all the tapes, I have been through all the texts, I have been through all the emails, and I knew none existed.”
“Wait, what tapes have you gone through?” Chotiner asked. (The original BuzzFeed story by Jason Leopold and Anthony Cormier made no reference to tapes.)
“I shouldn’t have said tapes,” Giuliani responded, noting that BuzzFeed had reported the existence of texts and emails. “There were no texts, there were no emails, and the President never told him to lie.”
When asked to confirm that he had not listened to any tapes, Giuliani said: “No tapes. Well, I have listened to tapes, but none of them concern this.” Giuliani may have been referencing the 183 recordings seized by federal prosecutors in July, about a dozen of which, he said, contained audio of Cohen discussing the president.
Giuliani also took time to address his latest unexpected statements about Trump’s dealings with Russia, which were made over the weekend in an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and an interview with the New York Times. In the interviews, Giuliani said conversations about the tower project in Moscow continued much later into 2016 than previously believed, The Post’s Seung Min Kim reported.
In a statement Monday, Giuliani said his comments “about discussions during the 2016 campaign between Michael Cohen and then-candidate Donald Trump about a potential Trump Moscow ‘project’ were hypothetical and not based on conversations I had with the President.”
The president’s lawyer added: “My comments did not represent the actual timing or circumstances of any such discussions.”
To the New Yorker, Giuliani took his defense a step further, slamming the Times story as “absolutely wrong” and accusing the newspaper of wanting to “crucify the President” and “deliberately” misunderstanding his statements. The Times reported that Trump had said discussions about the Moscow tower project were “‘going on from the day I announced to the day I won,’” attributing the quote to Giuliani, who spoke with reporters in a phone interview.
“I did not say that,” Giuliani said after being asked about the quote. “I don’t know if they made it up. What I was talking about was, if he had those conversations, they would not be criminal.”
He then proceeded to double down on his argument that even if Trump had participated in conversations about the tower, it would not be an illegal act.
“I am not saying that he did it,” he said. “I just told you he didn’t do it. I am telling you that their investigation is so ridiculous that, even if he did do it, it wouldn’t be a crime.”
He added: “I’m a criminal lawyer. I am not an ethicist. And I defend people against unfair criminal charges.”
Toward the end of the interview, Chotiner shifted focus to Giuliani’s legacy, asking, “Saying things for Trump, not always being truthful about it — do you ever worry that this will be your legacy? Does that ever worry you in any way?”
“Absolutely,” Giuliani said, mentioning his fear about what his epitaph could be. “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,” Giuliani continued, referencing the keeper of the keys to heaven. “He will be on my side, because I am, so far … I don’t think, as a lawyer, I ever said anything that’s untruthful.”
When Chotiner attempted to get Giuliani to elaborate on his “St. Peter” comment, the lawyer deflected.
“I was joking,” he said, later adding, “I don’t think about my legacy. All I think about is doing a good job and what I believe in.”