President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani accidentally told a reporter there are “tapes” that prove the president did not tell Michael Cohen to lie under oath about the Trump Tower deal in Moscow. Giuliani immediately walked back the comments in his interview with the New Yorker, saying he didn’t mean to say there are tapes, then saying there are no tapes, then saying there were tapes but they didn’t concern “this.”
In an effort to squash explosive allegations from BuzzFeed that the president directed Cohen to lie to Congress about his organization’s pursuit of a new Trump Tower in Moscow, Giuliani told the New Yorker he knows the story was false because “I have been through all the tapes, I have been through all the texts, I have been through all the e-mails, and I knew none existed” that proved the BuzzFeed allegations.
Giuliani immediately attempted to walk back his comments: “I shouldn’t have said tapes. They alleged there were texts and e-mails that corroborated that Cohen was saying the president told him to lie.”
When pressed further, he added: “No tapes. Well, I have listened to tapes, but none of them concern this.” He was referring to tapes of exchanges between Cohen and Trump that he says “vindicated” the president.
A spokesperson for Special Counsel Robert Mueller — who is investigating Trump’s ties to Russia, Russian meddling in the 2016 election, and potentially Russian interference since Trump has taken office — on Friday gave a rare statement denying narrow aspects of the BuzzFeed story. BuzzFeed has since stood by its reporting.
In 2018, federal agents reportedly seized a cache of tape recordings from Cohen’s office. Snippets of taped conversations between Cohen and Trump have leaked to the press, but this is the first time someone on the president’s inner circle has admitted the tapes exist and are an authentic recording of the president.
The tapes are significant considering Cohen is tied up in a pair of scandals involving the president. Cohen has pleaded guilty to lying Congress about the organization’s involvement in the Moscow tower project. He has also pleaded guilty to illegally using campaign funds at the direction of Trump to pay off two women, Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, to keep quiet about their alleged affairs with the president, in an effort to influence the election.
Giuliani told Jake Tapper Saturday that Trump may have talked to Cohen about his false testimony before Congress but “so what if he talked to him about it?” Suborning perjury, however, is a felony offense.
Giuliani has also repeatedly moved the goalposts on the president’s involvement in the Trump Tower deal. In November, he said the president had no involvement whatsoever, then Sunday told media the president was involved in discussions as recently as Election Day 2016.
“It’s our understanding that they went on throughout 2016,” Giuliani said. “There weren’t a lot of them, but there were conversations.”
Giuliani then tried to walk that statement back further, saying those conversations were “hypothetical,” meant only to illustrate that is such conversations happened, they wouldn’t constitute a crime.