Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor who recently joined President Donald Trump’s legal team, sat down with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos on Sunday for a wide-ranging, eyebrow-raising interview.
Giuliani appeared on ABC’s “This Week” following his explosive revelation on Fox News last week that Trump had reimbursed Michael Cohen, the president’s personal attorney, for the $130,000 payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels.
Trump, who had previously denied all knowledge of the payment, suggested Friday that Giuliani didn’t have “his facts straight.” Giuliani quickly backpedaled, saying during a Fox News appearance on Saturday that he was “still learning” about the case. On Sunday, he continued to sow confusion about what he knows.
Here were some of the biggest takeaways from his ABC interview:
Giuliani said Trump, as president, doesn’t need to comply with a subpoena to appear before a grand jury in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
“We don’t have to,” Giuliani said when asked if Trump would comply. “He’s the president of the United States. We can assert the same privileges other presidents have.”
Mueller reportedly warned Trump’s lawyers in March that he had the power to issue a subpoena if the White House refused his request to have a sit-down interview with the president as part of the federal investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, rejected that argument on CNN later Sunday.
“He’s going to need to comply with a subpoena,” he told the network’s Jake Tapper. “If they take that case to court, they’re going to lose.”
Giuliani didn’t rule out that Trump may take the Fifth Amendment if subpoenaed by the special counsel’s office.
“Every lawyer in America thinks he would be a fool to testify,” Giuliani said. “I’ve got a client who wants to testify. ... I hope we get a chance to tell him the risk that he’s taking.”
Giuliani also said he expects Cohen to “cooperate” with prosecutors in the Russia probe, and claimed pardoning him if he’s indicted or convicted of a crime is “obviously not on the table.”
“It has not been discussed, and would not be discussed” Giuliani said. “I’m a big believer in the pardon power. ... But right now, pardons would be a bit ― they wouldn’t be illegal to talk about, they’d be kind of confusing.”
Either way, Giuliani said it’s time for Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to shut down Mueller’s investigation.
“There’s no question that the amount of government misconduct is accumulating,” he said. “I happen to believe it’s greater than anybody realizes.”
Giuliani suggested he isn’t concerned about whether Trump lied to the press regarding his knowledge of the Daniels payment because that’s “political” and not a “crime.”
Giuliani said last week that Trump first found out about the payment to Daniels― whose real name is Stephanie Clifford― several weeks ago, but claimed Sunday that he was less certain of the timeline.
“I don’t know when the president learned about it,” he said. “The reality is those are not facts that worry me as a lawyer. Those don’t amount to anything ― what is said to the press. That’s political.”
“It’s okay to lie to the press?” Stephanopoulos interrupted.
“Gee, I don’t know,” Giuliani responded. “You know a few presidents who did that. I don’t think that this president has done that. But in any event, that’s not the crime.”
Giuliani said $130,000 seems like more of a “nuisance” payment than an effort to keep Daniels quiet about something that really happened.
“I never thought $130,000 was a real payment ― it’s a nuisance payment,” Giuliani said.
“I don’t like saying this, but it’s not a great deal of money ― $1.3 million is a great deal of money,” he continued. “That’s the kind of money you would think of as a settlement. If I saw $130,000, I would never think it was to settle a substantial claim against my client.”
Cohen may have paid off other women for Trump “if it was necessary,” according to Giuliani.
“I have no knowledge of that, but I would think if it was necessary, yes,” Giuliani said. “[Cohen] made payments for the president or he conducted business for the president.”
Speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union,” White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said she didn’t personally know about payments other than the one to Daniels, though she also added a caveat.
If such payments were made, “they didn’t cross my desk as campaign manager” in the 2016 election, Conway told Jake Tapper.
Giuliani walked back his comments about Cohen complaining that Trump never reimbursed him for the Daniels payment.
Giuliani told multiple news outlets last week that Cohen had complained after the 2016 election about Trump not reimbursing him for the Daniels payment. But Giuliani appeared to downplay those statements Sunday, calling Cohen’s alleged complaints just “one of the rumors.”
“But that’s what you said,” Stephanopoulos said. “You stated it as fact.”
“Well maybe I did,” Giuliani responded. “I don’t know. How do you separate fact and opinion?”
Stephanopoulos grilled Giuliani after he accused Mueller’s team of leaking questions it wants to ask Trump.
While discussing whether Trump would testify in the Russia probe, Giuliani claimed the special counsel’s team was behind a New York Times report that featured 49 questions Mueller wants to ask the president. But Stephanopoulos pushed back on that theory.
“Those questions were written by [Trump attorney] Jay Sekulow after a meeting with Mueller and his team,” Stephanopoulos told Giuliani. “And these were ... the impression of the Trump team’s take on the questions, and in fact it was a document made by the Trump team. It wasn’t something leaked by Mueller.”
“Could it have been somebody formerly on our side? Could it have been somebody formerly on theirs? I don’t know,” Giuliani responded. “Main fact is I don’t care. My client’s prejudiced by that, but in a way we were helped by it.”
As expected, Daniels’ attorney, Michael Avenatti, was waiting in the wings to skewer Giuliani over his “train wreck” of an interview Sunday.
“It’s an absolute, unmitigated disaster for Rudy Giuliani and the president,” Avenatti said. “I can’t believe that that actually just happened. I mean, what we witnessed by Rudy Giuliani may be one of the worst TV appearances by any attorney on behalf of a client in modern times.”
Nick Visser contributed to this report.