President Trump’s top lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, released a series of statements on Friday that suggested Trump’s team wasn’t quite sure how to react to news that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort reached a cooperation deal with special counsel Robert Mueller.
Shortly after news of the deal broke, Giuliani released a statement indicating President isn’t sweating it, because even if Manafort tells Mueller the whole truth, Trump has done nothing wrong.
“Once again an investigation has concluded with a plea having nothing to do with President Trump or the Trump campaign,” the statement said. “The reason: the President did nothing wrong and Paul Manafort will tell the truth.”
NEW: Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani on Manafort: "Once again an investigation has concluded with a plea having nothing to do with President Trump or the Trump campaign. The reason: the President did nothing wrong and Paul Manafort will tell the truth.” https://t.co/I07uCEa5JX pic.twitter.com/8BO9G6SCdG
— ABC News (@ABC) September 14, 2018
But it didn’t take long for Giuliani to have second thoughts about his assertion that Manafort “will tell the truth.” About an hour after the first statement hit the internet, Giuliani distributed a revised version that removed the last seven words.
Trump legal team re-sends Manafort stmt, removing the words "and Paul Manafort will tell the truth."
"Once again an investigation has concluded w/ a plea having nothing to do w/ President Trump or the Trump campaign. The reason: the President did nothing wrong." – Rudy Giuliani
— Peter Alexander (@PeterAlexander) September 14, 2018
The revised statement leaves open the possibility that Trump and his legal team will ultimately dispute the information Manafort shares with Mueller — and he’s reportedly already started sharing some. It suggests the president’s team is bracing for the possibility that they will have to try and assassinate Manafort’s character, as they’ve done to former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen after he reached a similar agreement with Mueller. Trump praised Manafort’s character on Twitter as recently as three weeks ago.
I feel very badly for Paul Manafort and his wonderful family. “Justice” took a 12 year old tax case, among other things, applied tremendous pressure on him and, unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to “break” – make up stories in order to get a “deal.” Such respect for a brave man!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 22, 2018
Manafort — who pleaded guilty to conspiracy against the United States and conspiracy to obstruct justice on Friday — was campaign chairman during a period of the 2016 encompassing the Trump Tower meeting with Kremlin-connected Russians, mysterious pro-Russia changes to the Republican Party platform, and the beginning of Wikileaks’ publication of Democratic National Committee emails that Trump’s own intelligence chiefs acknowledge were hacked by Russia.
Trump has denied personal involvement in any nefarious activities, though there are indications he hasn’t been telling the truth. At this point it’s unclear what information Manafort might have that could directly incriminate the president.
Giuliani has already demonstrated a willingness to move the goalposts. Though team Trump initially denied any campaign contacts with Russians whatsoever, by July Giuliani was going on Fox News and arguing that even if collusion with Russia occurred, it wouldn’t be a big deal because collusion isn’t a crime.
Giuliani has also repeatedly expressed concern that Trump will ultimately be “framed” by his own Department of Justice. Suffice it to say that sort of talking point is not usually invoked by people who believe the evidence will ultimately exonerate them or their client.
Trump’s top lawyer has even quibbled over the meaning of the word “truth.” During an interview on Meet the Press last month, Giuliani argued Trump shouldn’t sit for an interview with Mueller because “truth isn’t truth.”
Chuck Todd: "Truth is truth. I don't mean to go—"
Rudy Giuliani: "No, it isn't truth! Truth isn't truth!" pic.twitter.com/j8H1CIol5u
— Axios (@axios) August 19, 2018
“I’m not going to be rushed into having him testify, so that he gets trapped into perjury,” Giuliani said. “And when you tell me that, you know, he should testify because he’s going to tell the truth and he shouldn’t worry, well that’s so silly because it’s somebody’s version of the truth, not the truth.”
“Truth is truth!” host Chuck Todd interjected.
“Truth isn’t truth!” Giuliani retorted.