Rudy Giuliani just changed his story on the Trump Tower Moscow deal again — breathing new life into BuzzFeed's report
Rudy Giuliani can't keep his story straight as he tries to defend President Donald Trump's increasingly suspicious entanglement with Russia.
Just last week, Giuliani raised red flags when he signaled that members of Trump's campaign might have, after all, colluded with the Russian government as a part of its efforts to interfere in the 2016 election. He claimed that this wasn't a change from his previous claims of "no collusion," but it was. He then tried to backpedal from his new claim, saying he wasn't aware of any collusion by the campaign.
Then, after a bombshell BuzzFeed News report said that Special Counsel Robert Mueller had evidence Trump directed his attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress, Giuliani slammed the report, and Mueller issued a vague response calling parts of the story "not accurate." This seemed like a major boon for the Trump team — they quickly used it to attack the media and its Russia reporting more generally. But on Sunday, Giuliani ended up bolstering the BuzzFeed report by saying that Trump may have spoken to Cohen about his congressional testimony before it happed — testimony which Cohen later admitted was a criminal lie — and said, "And so what if he talked to him about it?" Of course, the problem is that if the president knew Cohen was going to give intentionally false testimony, he could be complicit in the crime and possibly guilty on a similar charge.
In light of these facts, Giuliani changed his story yet again on Monday, telling the New York Daily News, "The president never spoke with Cohen about the congressional testimony.”
Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor, told the Daily News that it wouldn't necessarily be a problem if Trump and Cohen's lawyers had contact ahead of the testimony, as Giuliani now claims.
“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 told the outlet. “The question, then, is whether they discussed the false testimony in advance and knew at the time that it was false.”
Mariotti added on Twitter: "That didn't take long. [Giuliani] already walked back his suggestion that Trump discussed Cohen's false testimony to Congress with him in advance."
And with regard to the actual negotiations with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign to build a Trump Tower Moscow, the narrative is evolving and contradictory as well.
On Sunday, we learned this:
The Trump Tower Moscow discussions were “going on from the day I announced to the day I won,” Mr. Giuliani quoted Mr. Trump as saying during an interview with The New York Times.
But on Monday, Giuliani had completed reversed himself without acknowledging the contradiction:
My recent statements about discussions during the 2016 campaign between Michael Cohen and then-candidate Donald Trump about a potential Trump Moscow ‘project’ were hypothetical and not based on conversations I had with the President. My comments did not represent the actual timing or circumstances of any such discussions. The point is that the proposal was in the earliest stage and did not advance beyond a free non-binding letter of intent.
Giuliani also raised a new red flag on Monday, telling CNN that Trump's legal team reached out to Mueller's office after the BuzzFeed report was published but before the response had been issued — raising questions about whether Trump inappropriately intervened in the investigation's operations.
All of this raises serious questions about the BuzzFeed report that, while it is now being treated with high levels of skepticism due to the special counsel's statement, is still being defended by the news organization. Why would Giuliani suggest that Trump was indeed in contact with Cohen about the testimony, and then quickly backtrack? Why would he reveal that he was apparently trying to influence that special counsel's reaction to the story, even when this looks to be on its face inappropriate? Why is Trump still unable to answer basic questions about Trump Tower Moscow?
It remains difficult to accept the BuzzFeed article as a whole — but Giuliani's scattershot reaction and shifting story suggest that it's still worth taking seriously.