Lawyer and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani at a press conference after appearing in court to call for the dismissal of a lawsuit filed against video game giant Activision in Los Angeles, Calif., Oct. 16, 2014.
Photo by Damian Dovarganes/AP

Giuliani jolts Russia scandal debate, references unheard ‘tapes’

Updated

When BuzzFeed reported on Friday that Donald Trump directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about the proposed Trump Tower Moscow project, the news outlet pointed to some documented evidence. According to the report, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office has “internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents” that bolster the allegation.

Mueller’s team, of course, later denied the accuracy of the report, though BuzzFeed continues to stand by it.

Yesterday, Rudy Giuliani told the New Yorker’s Isaac Chotiner that he knew the moment he saw the BuzzFeed article that it wasn’t true. Asked why, the president’s lawyer said, “Because I have been through all the tapes.” It led to a rather striking exchange:

NEW YORKER: Wait, what tapes have you gone through?

GIULIANI: I shouldn’t have said tapes. They alleged there were texts and e-mails that corroborated that Cohen was saying the President told him to lie. There were no texts, there were no e-mails, and the President never told him to lie.

NEW YORKER So, there were no tapes you listened to, though?

GIULIANI: No tapes. Well, I have listened to tapes, but none of them concern this.

Got it. Giuliani has been through the tapes, which don’t exist, except for the ones that do. Donald Trump can obviously take comfort in the fact that he’s hired the best legal representation that money can buy.

All joking aside, to know anything about the former New York City mayor is to know he has a bit of a credibility problem, generated by the fact that he routinely has no idea what he’s talking about. As recently as 48 hours ago, Giuliani made things vastly worse for his client, revealing damaging new details about the Trump Tower Moscow negotiations, only to walk it all back yesterday, insisting he was making “hypothetical” observations.

If the recent pattern holds, sometime today, the Republican lawyer will seek to clarify his comments to the New Yorker, too, and the “Giuliani forced to backpedal after making embarrassing revelations” file will have a new entry.

Or put another way, anyone who takes Giuliani’s rhetoric at face value is making a mistake.

That said, when he added, “Well, I have listened to tapes…” what could Trump’s lawyer have been referring to? One possibility is the trove of recordings Michael Cohen reportedly made in 2016, some of which have helped document Trump’s illegal hush-money payoffs to his alleged former mistresses.

Of course, that’s just a best guess. There are some tantalizing possibilities, about which I hope Giuliani will blurt out some additional information.

I imagine we’ll hear more about all of this as the day progresses, but as the story unfolds, let’s also not forget that this isn’t the first time possible Trump World recordings have jolted the political debate. In May 2017, the president, for reasons that have never been explained, wrote in a warning to the former director of the FBI, “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”

Trump later claimed there were no such recordings, though during congressional testimony, Comey famously said, “Lordy, I hope there are tapes.”

That’s a sentiment quite a few people are echoing this morning.