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Rudy Giuliani: 'So what' if Trump and Cohen discussed testimony

Dialogue about Trump Tower project could have stretched beyond what US president has acknowledged

Rudy Giuliani, US President Donald Trump's lawyer, in the East Room of the White House. AFP
Rudy Giuliani, US President Donald Trump's lawyer, in the East Room of the White House. AFP

President Donald Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani left open on Sunday the possibility that Mr Trump and former personal attorney Michael Cohen might have discussed Mr Cohen's congressional testimony.

But he said, "so what" if he did?

Mr Giuliani appeared on CNN, where he said he did not know if Mr Trump had discussed with Mr Cohen a 2017 congressional interview at which the attorney has admitted lying about a Trump Tower real estate project in Moscow. He also acknowledged in a separate interview with NBC that conversations about that project stretched throughout 2016, including possibly up until October or November of that year.

The question arose in light of a Buzzfeed News report from last week that said Mr Trump had instructed Mr Cohen to lie to Congress and that Mr Cohen relayed that to special counsel Robert Mueller's team of investigators. Mr Mueller's office took the unusual step of issuing a statement disputing the story. Buzzfeed said it stands by its reporting.

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Mr Giuliani said on interviews with CNN and NBC News that President Trump never directed Mr Cohen to lie to lawmakers. But on CNN he acknowledged the possibility that Mr Trump and Mr Cohen might have discussed the latter's testimony, saying that while he had no knowledge of such a conversation, he wasn't ruling it out.

"I don't know if it happened or didn't happen," Mr Giuliani said, later adding, "And so what if he talked to him about it?"

Mr Giuliani's suggestion to NBC that dialogue about the Trump Tower project could have stretched into the fall of 2016 extends the timeline well beyond what the president has publicly acknowledged. Mr Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress by saying that he had abandoned the project in January 2016 even though prosecutors say he actually continued pursuing it into that June.

Mr Giuliani said on NBC's "Meet The Press" that President Trump could recall having conversations with Mr Cohen about the project throughout 2016, though there "weren't a lot of them."

"The president also remembers – yeah, probably up – could be up to as far as October, November," Mr Giuliani said. "Our answers cover until the election. So anytime during that period they could've talked about it. But the president's recollection of it is that the, the thing had petered out quite a bit."

Mr Giuliani made a similar comment last month on ABC News when he suggested that the president knew that Mr Cohen was pursuing the project into 2016.

"According to the answer that he gave, it would have covered all the way up to – covered up to November, 2016. Said he had conversations with him but the president didn't hide this," Mr Giuliani said.

Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat and chairman of the House intelligence committee, said the panel planned to investigate why Mr Cohen made false statements to Congress and determine what exactly Mr Cohen and President Trump might have discussed about his testimony.

"Congress has a fundamental interest in two things, first in getting to the bottom of why a witness came before us and lied and who else was knowledgeable that this was a lie," Rep. Schiff said on CBS' "Face the Nation."

Updated: January 21, 2019 05:28 PM

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