WASHINGTON — Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, one of President Trump’s attorneys, unloaded on special counsel Robert Mueller, the FBI and Trump’s one-time fixer Michael Cohen in a phone conversation with Yahoo News on Wednesday.
Giuliani said the Trump legal team is focused on encouraging Mueller to end his investigation into whether the president’s campaign colluded with Russian intervention efforts in the 2016 election. He further suggested that Mueller lacks the authority to prosecute Trump.
“Our strategy is … to do everything we can to try to convince Mueller to wrap the damn thing up, and if he’s got anything, show us,” Giuliani said. “If he doesn’t have anything, you know, write your report, tell us what you have, and we’ll deal with it. He can’t prosecute him [Trump]. All he can do is write a report about him, so write the goddamned thing and get it over with now.”
The special counsel’s office declined to comment on Giuliani’s assessment of the investigation.
Giuliani’s unprompted call to Yahoo News came hours after President Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison for what a judge described as a “smorgasbord” of federal crimes. Cohen’s offenses included charges related to lying to Congress about a tower Trump sought to build in Moscow, tax evasion, making false statements to a bank and campaign violations stemming from payments to two women who claimed to have had affairs with Trump. Tapes Cohen made of his conversations with Trump and other associates were seized in FBI raids on his home and office in April.
Giuliani also blasted Cohen, who spent more than a decade working for Trump as his personal attorney and as an executive at his real estate company.
“Cohen is a completely dishonorable person. … I’ve never heard of a lawyer that tape-recorded their client without the client’s permission, and I’ve known some pretty scummy lawyers,” Giuliani said. “You don’t exist very long in the legal profession if you go around taping your client.”
Cohen did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Trump’s former personal lawyer received a reduced sentence because he pleaded guilty and cooperated with Mueller’s team. Cohen testified that the money paid to the two women was designed to suppress their stories during the election and that Trump directed those payments. The president and his legal team have offered shifting stories about what he knew about the payments. On Monday, Trump tweeted that the money was a “simple private transaction” that was not a campaign finance violation.
The campaign finance charges against Cohen were based on the premise that the six-figure payments to the women were designed to help Trump escape scandal during the election. As such, they could be viewed as campaign contributions that were well above legal limits.
Giuliani pointed to Trump’s lack of legal expertise when he was asked whether he thought it was plausible to argue that the payment was a private matter rather than an attempt to influence the 2016 campaign.
“The president’s not a lawyer. The simple fact is that it’s not a criminal violation of the campaign finance law,” said Giuliani.
Giuliani claimed the case of 2008 presidential candidate John Edwards proves it’s “questionable” to accuse Trump of a campaign finance violation. Edwards was indicted in 2011 for payments that were made on his behalf during the 2008 race to a woman he had an affair and fathered a child with. Edwards was acquitted on one count for a payment made after the 2008 election. The jury deadlocked on five other counts, resulting in a mistrial.
“They tried exactly the same theory against Edwards in order to sensationalize the case,” Giuliani explained. “They couldn’t succeed in that. The campaign finance board has indicated that payments like this, which even if they’re for some campaign purpose, if they’re also for a personal purpose and you would have made them anyway, are not campaign contributions.”
Giuliani went on to argue that Trump can “hardly” be prosecuted for a “questionable violation of the law.” He also suggested that Mueller’s prosecutors have shifted their focus to possible campaign finance violations because they have been unable to find evidence of collusion with Russia or obstruction of justice.
“How do they all of a sudden become campaign finance prosecutors? You need a special prosecutor for campaign finance? I mean, they started with collusion. … After two years and two investigations … they have nothing on collusion,” Giuliani said. “Then, they started squeaking about obstruction. They’ve got nothing on obstruction, and Article II prevents them from doing anything about obstruction. Now they’re doing campaign finance.”
While Trump and his allies have argued that the information released by Mueller so far shows prosecutors have found there was no collusion with Russia, the spate of recent legal filings in cases involving members of the president’s inner circle have revealed that there are multiple ongoing federal investigations.
Nevertheless, Giuliani said he was certain there is no further probe of whether Trump’s team aided the Russian efforts to hinder his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. Giuliani said his confidence in this assertion was based on having seen written questions Mueller submitted to the president, as well as a belief that no one on the Trump campaign was guilty of any wrongdoing with respect to Russia.
“I’ve seen their questions. There’s nothing to look at. They could look at collusion for the next 30 years and, unless they get somebody to lie, they’re not going to find any evidence of it because it didn’t happen,” Giuliani said.
“I think he’s desperately trying to come up with some smoke and mirrors so he can say there’s some form of collusion. I don’t think he can do it,” Giuliani said. “I saw a prosecutor that was on a fishing expedition as opposed to somebody that has a solid piece of evidence and wants to nail you with it. It’s like something you’d do at a beginning of a case, not the end.”
Giuliani also suggested a crime would have taken place only if Trump was directly involved in Russian efforts to hack into Democrats’ emails and computer networks during the 2016 race.
“Collusion isn’t even a crime. Collusion is like the biggest bunch of bullshit. The crime is conspiracy to hack. Do you believe that Donald Trump engaged in a conspiracy with the Russians to hack Hillary Clinton? Of course not. It’s ridiculous,” Giuliani said.
The U.S. intelligence community has concluded the Kremlin directed hacking efforts during the 2016 election to boost Trump and hurt Clinton. In July, Mueller’s team issued an indictment of 12 Russian intelligence agents for allegedly participating in the election hacking. Trump has steadfastly denied that his campaign worked with the Russians and has dismissed Mueller’s probe as a partisan “witch hunt.”
Giuliani echoed Trump’s characterization of the Mueller probe. He pointed to the fact that Cohen was not being prosecuted for false statements he initially made about the payments to women as proof of the prosecutors’ unethical behavior.
Federal prosecutors in New York urged the judge to give Cohen only a “modest” break from the recommended sentence for his crimes because they said he was unwilling to fully cooperate with their investigations.
Giuliani suggested Cohen still received an overly light sentence. He contrasted Cohen’s situation with that of Paul Manafort, the former chairman of Trump’s campaign.
Manafort pleaded guilty to multiple charges in September, including making false statements about lobbying work he did for the government of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and filing false reports to conceal money he made from those efforts. Manafort has also admitted to obstructing justice by attempting to influence witness testimony in his case.
As part of his plea deal, Manafort agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation, but late last month the special counsel accused him of violating the terms of his plea agreement by lying about contacts he had with the Trump administration.
Some observers have suggested Manafort and other Trump associates who have attracted Mueller’s attention are refusing to cooperate with prosecutors because they hope to be pardoned by Trump. Giuliani said he thinks Manafort isn’t waiting for a pardon and is simply refusing to lie just to appease prosecutors.
“In Manafort’s case, they really should give up at this point. I mean, how much do you want to do to the guy? Do you want to waterboard him? I mean, come on, you have him in solitary confinement. They take him out every other day,” Giuliani said. “He knows exactly what he has to say to get out, but he says, you know, ‘I’m not going to say it because it’s not true.’ Gee, is it possible maybe he’s right — it isn’t true?”
While Giuliani rejected the notion that Manafort is holding out for a pardon, he also noted that Trump hasn’t ruled out absolving his former allies of guilt.
“Pardons are not on the table for anyone right now,” Giuliani said. “At the same time, he’s not forfeiting his right to pardon based on an analysis of the case.”
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