President Trump did not speak with Michael Cohen before he testified falsely before Congress about plans to develop a skyscraper in Moscow during the 2016 campaign, Rudy Giuliani said Monday, backing off previous assertions that such talks may have taken place.
The former New York mayor, who serves as Trump’s top lawyer in Robert Mueller’sRussia investigation, said he had confirmed the matter with previous members of the President’s legal team, including ex-lead counsel John Dowd.
“The President never spoke with Cohen about the congressional testimony,” Giuliani told the Daily News.
However, Giuliani acknowledged Trump’s legal team conversed with Cohen’s lawyers — and possibly Cohen himself — before he went before the House and Senate intelligence committees in September 2017 and falsely testified that discussions to develop a Trump Tower in Moscow ended in January 2016.
“Anything that happened between the lawyers would have been part of the joint defense agreement,” Giuliani said, claiming all parties involved believed at the time that Cohen’s planned testimony was truthful.
Cohen has since admitted the Moscow project discussions continued well into the summer of 2016 and said in a guilty plea that he lied to lawmakers out of “loyalty” to Trump.
Giuliani’s latest remarks came on the heels of his going on multiple cable news shows saying he wasn’t sure whether or not the President spoke with Cohen before his testimony.
“I don’t know if it happened or didn’t happen,” Giuliani told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday. “So what if he talked to him about it?”
Dowd, who stepped down as Trump’s attorney in March, echoed Giuliani and said in a text message Monday that the President never spoke directly with Cohen before the testimony.
Dowd also said he never personally spoke with Cohen but wouldn’t say whether he ever conversed with the former Trump fixer’s attorneys.
Stephen Ryan, the lawyer who represented Cohen at the time of his testimony, did not return a request for comment.
A spokeswoman for Cohen declined to comment.
Trump’s potential pre-testimony talks with Cohen has come under increased scrutiny since BuzzFeed News reported last week that the President directed Cohen to lie about the Moscow project in order to protect himself — an explosive allegation that prompted congressional Democrats to raise the specter of impeachment.
Mueller, who’s investigating whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russians during the 2016 election, issued a rare statement disputing some “characterizations” and “descriptions” included in the BuzzFeed report.
The special counsel’s office has declined to comment on what particular aspects of the report are inaccurate. BuzzFeed stands by its reporting and is urging Mueller to set the record straight.
Giuliani also sought to clarify Monday comments he made a day prior that discussions to develop Trump Tower Moscow may have continued all the way up until Trump’s election.
“He doesn’t remember whether they went on,” Giuliani said, adding Trump’s written answers to Mueller stated the discussions may have continued up until the election.
“We answered the question from the special counsel that way because it leaves him protected,” Giuliani added.
Without specifying, Giuliani said he believes the BuzzFeed bombshell is a sign Mueller’s probe is coming to an end.
“I’ve been wrong before and I can be wrong again but I think this is because they’re near the end,” Giuliani said. “The impression we got this time is that we’re pretty close.”
Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor in Illinois, noted it’s not necessarily unusual for Trump’s legal team to have coordinated with Cohen’s legal team before his testimony.
“But it would be highly unusual for those attorneys to discuss potential false testimony by Cohen and do nothing to stop Cohen or correct the record, given that it would be unethical and potentially criminal,” Mariotti said. “The question, then, is whether they discussed the false testimony in advance and knew at the time that it was false.”
This article provided by NewsEdge.