During an appearance on Monday morning’s edition of Fox & Friends, President Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, tried and failed to defend President Trump from accusations of potential obstruction of justice regarding the Russia probe.
Giuliani said that Trump never asked then-FBI Director James Comey to drop his investigation into Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn in the weeks before Comey’s firing — but added that even if Trump had asked Comey to do this, it wouldn’t be a problem.
Giuliani’s latest comments represent an attempt to clean up the confusion generated by his appearance on CNN on Sunday, during which he denied that Trump ever asked Comey to give Flynn “a break.” Giuliani’s recent comments on CNN contradicted what he said on national TV in July, when he seemingly acknowledged Trump did make that request of Comey.
Giuliani’s new position attempts to paper over the contradiction by arguing that while Trump never made the request, even if he did, it’s no biggie.
“Under Article 2 of the constitution, you can’t really question why the president would say something — he has the power to say it,” Giuliani said. “Number two, what he was saying is perfectly justifiable. He didn’t say, ‘you must, you have to, I’ll fire you if you don’t’ — he said, ‘consider it.’ Number three, he never said it. Lawyers argue like this — we call it ‘argue in the alternative.'”
Giuliani went on to acknowledge that while Trump may not “remember correctly” what he asked of Comey during their conversation, even if his memory is faulty, “it doesn’t amount to a violation of anything.”
Giuliani’s new position about Trump’s conversations with Comey regarding Flynn resembles the position Team Trump has staked out about potential collusion with Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign — that it didn’t happen, but even if it did, it’s not a serious problem because collusion isn’t a crime.
As ThinkProgress detailed on Sunday, Giuliani is operating with an exceedingly narrow definition of “obstruction of justice.” Despite what Giuliani would have Fox News viewers believe, it’s unclear whether Trump putting pressure on an FBI director to curtail an investigation into an administration official who served as one of his key campaign surrogates would be as innocuous as he insists it is.
Comey testified under oath that Trump asked him to “see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” kept contemporaneous memos detailing his conversations with Trump, and looped in other top FBI officials about them as well.
Meanwhile, Giuliani’s credibility — or lack thereof — can be judged by what he said on Fox & Friends immediately following his comments about Comey and Flynn, when he falsely claimed the investigation of the Trump campaign “began with the phony [Steele] dossier.”
Trump and his legal team have relentlessly pushed this brazen lie. As ThinkProgress detailed last week, the FBI’s investigation into the Trump campaign did not begin with the Steele dossier. It actually started in July 2016, when WikiLeaks published emails hacked from the Democratic National Committee. That prompted an Australian diplomat to come forward and report that a Trump campaign adviser, George Papadopoulos, bragged to him months earlier about having advanced knowledge that Russia “had political dirt on Hillary Clinton.”