Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani was all over TV this weekend, making the case that his client, President Donald Trump, is the victim of out-of-control prosecutors and a crazed and biased media.
And as usual with Giuliani, he did Trump at least as much harm as good — revealing, among other things, that Trump might have had conversations about the possibility of building Trump Tower Moscow all the way through his election as president in November 2016.
I got a hold of the transcript of Giuliani’s sit-down with CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union” on Sunday, and picked out some of the most notable — and newsworthy lines. They’re below.
1. “Well, what he’s doing is, he’s telling the prosecutors what they want to hear. Now, you don’t know if that’s the truth or not.”
This idea — that former Trump fixer Michael Cohen is lying to prosecutors to get a better deal for himself — is a common refrain for both Giuliani and Trump. Their evidence? That Cohen is a proven liar. Which is true! Cohen has acknowledged lying to Congress about the depth and length of his conversations with the Russians about building Trump Tower Moscow. What’s far less clear is that Giuliani or Trump have any evidence to justify the claim that even Cohen’s admission that he lied about how long he was talking to the Russians is, itself, a lie.
2. “There was no deal. No, no, no. Wrong. There is no such thing as a deal. Come on, now.”
This depends on how you define the word “deal.” There was a 17-page letter of intent for the Trump Tower Moscow project, laying out a number of parameters of a deal — including things like the ability to name the spa at the development after Trump’s daughter, Ivanka. After initially saying Trump never signed that document, Giuliani eventually acknowledged that Trump had, in fact, signed it.
3. “[BuzzFeed] should be under — they should be sued. They should be under investigation. They said the President of the United States counseled someone to lie.”
It’s not entirely clear to me what BuzzFeed could actually be sued for as it relates to their controversial article alleging that Trump told Cohen to lie to Congress about the Trump Tower Moscow deal. Yes, special counsel Robert Mueller’s office put out a statement that directly disputes the BuzzFeed story. But what’s the crime here? Defaming a public figure is a VERY high bar. And given that BuzzFeed continues to stand by the story, it’s hard to imagine they knew what they were reporting wasn’t true before they published it. I’d love to hear Giuliani’s legal explanation for what BuzzFeed did that merits a lawsuit.
4. “What they did yesterday is truly fake news and disgusting.”
Debatable. Remember that all we have right now is the BuzzFeed article, the special counsel denial and the BuzzFeed reassertion that they stand by their story. I agree that the special counsel’s statement raises real questions about the BuzzFeed report. But it doesn’t answer even more. Is the entire BuzzFeed article wrong? Or is there something wrong with a detail or two about the timeline or who told what when? Either way, it’s hard for me to imagine that BuzzFeed intentionally published the article to harm Trump — armed with even an inkling that what they were reporting was wrong.
5. “They are the same ones who published the Steele dossier, when no one else would do it. They obviously have a hatred for the President.”
BuzzFeed did post the dossier on Trump collected by former British spy Christopher Steele despite the fact that the intelligence community made clear that the most salacious claims in the dossier had not been verified. All we know, again from law enforcement, is that some things in the dossier have been verified, but not all of it. As for Giuliani’s conclusion that by publishing the Steele dossier BuzzFeed showed that they have a “hatred” for the President, that seems like a massive logical leap.
6. “I don’t know if it happened or didn’t happen. And it might be attorney-client-privileged if it happened, where I can’t acknowledge it. But I have no knowledge that he spoke to him.”
An amazing piece of spin here by Giuliani in regard to whether or not Trump spoke to Cohen about the latter’s congressional testimony. It doesn’t matter whether he did or not — I don’t think he did but I don’t really know — because that conversation wouldn’t be illegal. That logic is technically accurate but the appearance of the President of the United States having a chat with his former fixer before that person testifies before Congress about what he knows about the Trump Organization isn’t exactly how most people envisioning the legal system working.
7. “He — under oath, under oath — but he’s pleading guilty to get a reduced sentence, which means he’s saying what the prosecutor wants him to say.”
Giuliani’s disparagement of Cohen’s motivations in the case are a near-constant. But it’s worth asking how Giuliani knows (or thinks he knows) what prosecutors want Cohen to say — and why.
8. “The guy driving this testimony was Michael Cohen. In other words, you and I are in a deal together. You are the guy running it. “
If you believe Giuliani’s contention here — Cohen was the boss of the Moscow project and Trump was taking a back seat — then you know very, very little about who Trump actually is. There’s a 0% chance that Trump gave over such a large project wholly to Cohen.
9. “The guy is a complete scoundrel. You can’t believe him. I used to like Michael. I’m so disappointed.”
Yes, Rudy, you have made your views on Cohen very, very clear.
10. “I think that’s phony as a $3 bill.”
[throws stack of $3 bills in trash]
11. “It’s — if he does something good, we’re going to commend him. If he does something we think is wrong, we’re going to — I’m going to defend the President.”
It’s important to define the terms that Giuliani is using to describe the actions of Mueller here. “Good” is something that is good for Trump. “Wrong” is something that is bad for Trump. That’s it. That’s the lens through which the President and his lawyer view this matter.
hat he’s doing to Manafort, I think, is horrible.”
To be clear: Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, was convicted by a jury of his peers on eight counts of financial crimes. Mueller’s office didn’t “do” anything to Manafort. Manafort broke the law — as judged by a jury of his peers.
13. “Should he have done it? Absolutely not. Bad judgment? Yes. A crime? Sharing polling data? Give me a break. No way.”
Giuliani is seeking here to minimize the revelation that not only did Manafort meet with Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian with ties to the country’s intelligence service, during his time as campaign chairman, but also shared polling data information with the man. Maybe it was simply an innocuous attempt to ingratiate himself with someone who had ties to people who owed Manafort money. But we simply don’t know that yet.
14. “Now — now, of course it is, if the father-in-law is a criminal.”
To justify Trump’s attacks on Cohen’s father-in-law, Giuliani is concluding that Cohen’s father-in-law is a criminal. There is no evidence of that currently in the public domain.
15. “This reason that is important is, he may have ties to something called organized crime.”
Tell me more about this “organized crime” concept …
16. “Well, there’s an organized crime group in Ukraine, organized crime group in Russia.”
Giuliani’s argument that Cohen’s father-in-law may be mixed up in organized crime is, literally, this:
a) He’s rich
b) He’s Ukrainian
17. “He goes and testifies against some people that are possibly in organized crime, they ain’t going to be applauding for him when he goes into a restaurant in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, believe me.”
OK, so. Here’s the Giuliani logic: Cohen is lying to federal prosecutors about what Trump knew and said because he is afraid that if he doesn’t his father-in-law will be in trouble with the mob. Or something?
18. “And Michael Cohen is withholding it, because to testify about that would be very dangerous to the father-in-law and Michael Cohen.”
Confirmation of the Giuliani theory! So, Michael Cohen isn’t telling prosecutors about his father-in-law’s crimes because he is more afraid of the Mafia than of Donald Trump. I mean, maybe this is true! But Giuliani offers zero factual evidence to back up his claims.
19. “That is a defense to a criminal accusation. And if we can’t do that, we’re not in America.”
America: Where suggesting, without proof, that a man is lying to protect his father-in-law from the mob is an act of true patriotism! This feels like a good place to stop.