In a series of rambling TV interviews, Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani (pictured) — whether to sow confusion or because of a slip — points to possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials during the 2016 election.
Since joining Trump’s legal team in April, Giuliani has taken the lead in PR appearances trying to blunt and undermine the investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. But far from providing a coherent defense, the former New York City mayor has often made statements — planned or off-the-cuff — which have fed the allegations against the Trump camp.
On Monday morning, Giuliani went on Fox and CNN to limit any damage from revelations by Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen. Facing financial charges and reportedly angered at his long-time boss Trump, Cohen may be cooperating with prosecutors. An audio of his conversation with Trump indicates the President knew in advance of a $150,000 payoff to one of Trump’s former mistresses, just before the 2016 election. More importantly, sources close to Cohen say he will attest that Trump — contrary to the President’s repeated denials — approved a June 2016 discussion with three Kremlin-linked envoys about material which could damage Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
Trying to defuse Cohen’s anticipated testimony, Giuliani only fed expectations. He did not repeat the “No Collusion” line favored by Trump, but shifted to an apparent exoneration of it as he didn’t “even know if that’s a crime, colluding about Russians”.
Giuliani then took on the reported claim by Cohen of Trump’s advance knowledge of the Trump Tower meeting on June 9, 2016. Donald Trump Jr., campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner hosted Kremlin-linked Natalia Veselnitskaya, lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin, and Ike Kaveladze, a representative of Trump’s business associate, Russian-Azerbaijani billionaire Aras Agalarov.
Giuliani tried to exonerate Trump Sr. by saying he was not at a preparatory meeting on June 7 which included Trump Jr., Manafort, Kushner, Manafort’s top aide Rick Gates, and another person.
But in trying to clear Trump Sr., the attorney appeared to be backing the claims that the Trump camp was treating the Russian approach seriously — a sharp contrast to statements by Trump Jr. and others that they paid little attention to a brief meeting which led nowhere.
In the afternoon, Giuliani tried to walk back the statement, saying that he was disputing whether any preparatory meeting took place.
But by then his remarks had opened a further reason for concern among Trump’s advisors. Since Rick Gates — having pled guilty earlier this year to financial charges — has been cooperating with Mueller, he could have given the Special Counsel a full account of what happened in June 2016.