What a mess.
Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani called into Fox News Monday afternoon to clean up interviews he did earlier in the day.
On Monday morning, Giuliani said that collusion isn’t a crime — implying that was something it would be useful to clarify, despite months of presidential denials of collusion with Russia. He also said he couldn’t be sure that Trump didn’t know ahead of time about the now-infamous meeting in which, a British publicist had told Donald Trump Jr., Russians promised to provide dirt on Hillary Clinton.
On Fox News, Giuliani began by walking back those claims, before taking any questions.
Describing it as a “very, very familiar lawyers’ argument,” Giuliani said of collusion: “My client didn’t do it, and even if he did it, it’s not a crime.”
Next, Giuliani referred to the President’s former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, who now appears ready to cooperate with prosecutors.
“I said, ‘Why would we attack Cohen? He can do terrible things.’ He cannot do terrible things,” Giuliani asserted. “We are fully confident that he has no information that would implicate the President of the United States.”
Giuliani also attempted to “pre-but” reporting on yet another 2016 campaign meeting, information about which he said had already been given to two news outlets who hadn’t published it yet.
“The jury for this case is the American public,” he said at one point, adding that “maybe one of the reasons we reemphasize the point about the legitimacy of the investigation is we want to show that maybe [Trump] shouldn’t be testifying at an investigation that has no legitimacy.”
Before hanging up, he drove the point home: “I also understand the confusion. Believe me, it’s going to get more confusing when these other tapes start coming out. But eventually, when you put them all together, it’s going to mean the President did nothing wrong.”
Giuliani discussed three meetings on Fox News on Monday — though he contends that two of them never actually happened. Here’s what he said about each meeting.
The Russian “dirt” meeting
This meeting has been confirmed by the Trump campaign, most notably Donald Trump Jr.: Senior members of the Trump campaign met with Russians promising dirt on Hillary Clinton, after Trump Jr. received an email promising such dirt from the British publicist Rob Goldstone. Goldstone said in an email that the promised dirt, which never materialized, was part of the Russian government’s effort to help Trump.
Cohen is now reportedly willing to tell prosecutors that Trump knew about, and approved, the meeting ahead of time.
Giuliani acknowledged all of this in the Fox News interview Monday. But he curiously insisted on making clear that, despite no-one asking him this, President Trump was not at the meeting.
“Why are you saying that the President wasn’t at the meeting?” Fox News commentator Melissa Francis asked. “Who asked if he was there? No one asked if he was there.”
Giuliani was blunt: “Cohen is alleging that the meeting took place. We are making it clear that the President was not at that meeting. Cohen doesn’t even allege that. To cut it off.”
The meeting where Donald Trump Jr. reportedly gave his dad a heads-up about the dirt meeting
On the same day of the dirt meeting, Giuliani said Monday, Cohen (or someone speaking to reporters on his behalf) has claimed “that he was in President Trump’s office, Donald Trump Jr. walked in and told him about the Russian meeting.”
“That is categorically untrue,” Giuliani said. “Did not happen. Two witnesses demonstrate that. He has talked about this endlessly on those 183 unique recordings and he never mentions it at all.”
The two witnesses, he told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota Monday morning, are the President and his son.
Cohen’s claim that Trump knew about the meeting ahead of time broke last week. Trump and his lawyers have strongly denied that Trump had any foreknowledge of that meeting — until Monday morning, when Giuliani claimed he could no longer be certain. He reversed that comment on Fox News.
Giuliani added on Fox News: “So the public record contains a leak by Cohen that he was present at a meeting in which Donald Jr. came in and informed the President. We deny that happened. We say it didn’t happen and if it had happened, it would’ve been mentioned a long time ago on the various hours of tapes that we have.”
“Another meeting that has been leaked but hasn’t been published yet”
Giuliani told Fox News that he and Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow had heard from reporters who’d been told about another meeting “in which they [Don Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, and ‘possibly others’], out of the presence of the President, discussed the meeting with the Russians.”
He categorically denied that the un-reported meeting he’d just brought up had ever happened.
“We checked with their lawyers, the ones we could check with, for four of the six,” Giuliani said. “That meeting never ever took place, it didn’t happen. It’s a figment of his imagination, or he’s lying.”
Giuliani mentioned a similar-sounding meeting on CNN earlier Monday, except he said it happened two days before the Russian dirt meeting, not three days before. Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, “and one more person” were in attendance, he said: “That’s a real meeting on another provable subject in which he was not participating.”
Giuliani told Fox News that at least one of those senior advisers did meet three days before the dirt meeting, but on something unrelated to Russia. Instead, he said, “the only meeting they find for that day that included any of these people is a meeting about the Hispanic judge that the President had criticized back around that time.” That is, Judge Gonzalo Curiel.
He added separately, “The second meeting was brought to my attention through Jay Sekulow. Both of us dealt with it with two different reporters, essentially the same information, about this meeting that took place three days earlier [that is, three days before the dirt meeting] with a whole group of people.”
He continued: “Everyone of those people says it didn’t happen. And why do I mention it? Because first of all, I thought it was going to come out, and second, my experience is that when you have something like this floating around, it comes out. And I don’t want it to come out and be un-rebutted when it originally comes out.”
“When I thought that it was going to be published,” Giuliani said, “I wanted to get out in front of it.”
This post has been updated.