By all appearances, Rudy Giuliani’s role on Donald Trump’s legal defense team is that of a spokesperson more than a lawyer. The former mayor’s job, as best as we can tell, does not entail a significant amount of hands-on legal representation.
The trouble, of course, is that Giuliani appears to be a horrible spokesperson for the president.
On Friday, in response to a controversial report from BuzzFeed, Trump and his team faced new questions about whether the president directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress. Yesterday, Giuliani insisted that Trump did no such thing, though Giuliani raised the prospect of the president having spoken with Cohen about his congressional testimony before it occurred.
“And so what if he talked to him about it?” Giuliani asked. He added that such a conversation would be “perfectly normal.”
I’ll gladly let legal experts speak to this with authority, but as a rule, when Congress is engaged in an investigation, a sitting president would avoid having conversations with material witnesses about their testimony ahead of a hearing.
But that was just the start of Giuliani’s highly problematic day.
President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani said Sunday that plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow remained an “active proposal” as late as November of 2016, leaving open the possibility that Trump’s family-led company continued to pursue the business deal up until the presidential election, months later than previously known.
Appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Giuliani said the president has told him he can “remember having conversations” with his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, about the project well into 2016.
Giuliani told NBC News’ Chuck Todd that the Trump Tower Moscow discussions “went on throughout 2016,” adding, “Probably could be up to as far as October, November.”
Giuliani went on to tell the New York Times that the president told him that the Trump Tower Moscow talks were “going on from the day I announced to the day I won.”
That’s not close to Trump World’s previous timeline of events.
The original story was that then-candidate Trump worked on the Moscow deal during the first six months of his candidacy, but the deal fell through in early 2016. Then the story changed, with Michael Cohen conceding that the talks continued through June 2016.
Yesterday, the story changed again. According to Giuliani, we should now believe the process continued well into the fall.
Also on “Meet the Press,” Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, argued that Giuliani’s latest comments were quite significant.
“That is news to me, and that is big news. Why, two years after the fact, are we just learning this fact now when there’s been this much inquiry?” asked Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee.
“I would think most voters – Democrat, Republican, independent, you name it – that knowing that the Republican nominee was actively trying to do business in Moscow, that the Republican nominee at least at one point had offered, if he built this building, Vladimir Putin, a free-penthouse apartment, and if those negotiations were ongoing up until the election, I think that’s a relevant fact for voters to know,” Warner said. “And I think it’s remarkable we are two years after the fact and just discovering it today.”
A criminal defense attorney in D.C. told Axios yesterday, “Rudy is the gift that keeps on creating issues that do not otherwise exist.”
So where does this leave us? Based on the information that’s currently available, Donald Trump, while running for president, pursued one of the biggest business deals of his life in Russia – the country that attacked American elections in the hopes of putting Trump in power – and the proposed project included sanctioned Russian banks.
As the 2016 campaign progressed, Trump was warned by the FBI about Russia targeting the U.S. political system, but the Republican nevertheless continued to pursue the Trump Tower Moscow project.
The president told the public he deliberately “stayed away” from possible deals with Russia, but that wasn’t true. His lawyer said there was never a signed letter of intent, but that wasn’t true. Trump said he and his team were “very open” about the possible deal during the campaign, but that wasn’t true.
And thanks to Rudy Giuliani’s latest comments, we also now know Trump and his team have changed their story – more than once – about when the Moscow talks ended.
As we discussed last week, Trump occasionally lies when he doesn’t have to, but for a business arrangement we’re supposed to see as perfectly benign, it’s extraordinary just how far the president and his team have gone to obscure the truth.