WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani on Monday walked back comments he made about discussions Trump had with his former personal attorney about a real estate project in Moscow during the presidential election campaign.
Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, has pleaded guilty to lying to Congress in 2017 by saying he had abandoned the Trump Tower project in January 2016 even though prosecutors say he actually pursued it into June.
Cohen has pleaded guilty to lying to Congress in 2017 by saying he had abandoned the project in January 2016 even though prosecutors say he actually pursued it into June.
Giuliani suggested Sunday on Meet the Press that Trump remembers conversations with Cohen about the project “up to as far as October, November,” or right up until the 2016 presidential election. That would have extended the timeline for negotiations well beyond what the president has publicly acknowledged.
Giuliani said Monday in a three-sentence statement that his comments didn’t represent the actual timing or circumstances of any discussions. He said his comments were “hypothetical” and “not based on conversations” he had with the president.
He concluded by saying the Moscow project “was in the earliest stage and did not advance beyond a free nonbinding letter of intent.”
On Meet the Press, Giuliani said the duration of the talks was one of the questions Trump’s legal team answered in written questions to special counsel Robert Mueller and then elaborated on the timing.
"Well, it's our understanding that it - that they went on throughout 2016. Weren't a lot of them, but there were conversations," Giuliani said during the Sunday interview. "Can't be sure of the exact date. But the president can remember having conversations . . . about it."
Giuliani then continued: "The president also remembers - yeah, probably up - could be up to as far as October, November. Our answers cover until the election. So anytime during that period, they could've talked about it."
In his plea deal, Cohen admitted to lying to Congress when he said the Moscow project discussions ended in January 2016, when the negotiations continued through June of that year - a period during which Trump was campaigning vigorously and on his way to securing the GOP nomination.
During the campaign, Trump asserted multiple times that he had no business interests in Russia. Cohen had made his false statements to Congress, according to prosecutors, to minimize ties between Trump and the real estate project.
After Giuliani made his comments Sunday, Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, reacted to the shifting timeline, saying it was "news to me" and adding: "That is big news."
“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 three-penthouse apartment, and if those negotiations were ongoing while - up till the election, I think that’s a relevant fact for voters to know,” Warner said. “And I think it’s remarkable that we’re two years after the fact and just discovering it today.”
Monday marked the second time within the last week that Giuliani has walked back comments from the previous day.
On Thursday, he issued a statement aimed at clarifying a TV interview from the night before in which he appeared to leave open the possibility of collusion between Russia and members of Trump's presidential campaign.
In the statement, he said "there was no collusion by President Trump in any way, shape or form" and that he had "no knowledge of any collusion by any of the thousands of people who worked on the campaign."
That was an apparent reversal from Wednesday’s television appearance in which he said, “I never said there was no collusion between the campaign or between people in the campaign.” He had previously denied any collusion.