WASHINGTON — Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, attempted Monday to clean up comments he made over the weekend asserting that discussions about a potential Trump Tower in Moscow stretched as late as November 2016.
In a statement Monday, Giuliani said his comments were purely hypothetical and not based on conversations with the president. His statement Sunday, made on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” that Trump associates had continued negotiations about the real estate project deep into the 2016 campaign had again raised scrutiny into then-candidate Trump’s posture toward Moscow, including his call in July of that year for Russia to hack into Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s emails.
“My recent statements about discussions during the 2016 campaign between Michael Cohen and then-candidate Donald Trump about a potential Trump Moscow ‘project’ were hypothetical and not based on conversations I had with the president,” Giuliani said Monday. “My comments did not represent the actual timing or circumstances of any such discussions.”
He added: “The point is that the proposal was in the earliest stage and did not advance beyond a free nonbinding letter of intent.”
The timeline of the discussions of the potential Trump Tower project in Moscow is a central component of the ongoing legal case that has ensnared Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen, who pleaded guilty last November to lying to Congress about the matter.
On “Meet the Press,” Giuliani said the duration of the talks was one of the questions Trump’s legal team answered in written questions to special counsel Robert Mueller and then elaborated on the timing.
“Well, it’s our understanding that it — that they went on throughout 2016. Weren’t a lot of them, but there were conversations,” Giuliani said during the Sunday interview. “Can’t be sure of the exact date. But the president can remember having conversations … about it.”
Giuliani then continued: “The president also remembers — yeah, probably up — could be up to as far as October, November. Our answers cover until the election. So anytime during that period, they could’ve talked about it.”
In his plea deal, Cohen admitted to lying to Congress when he said the Moscow project discussions ended in January 2016, when the negotiations continued through June of that year — a period during which Trump was campaigning vigorously and on his way to securing the GOP nomination.
During the campaign, Trump asserted multiple times that he had no business interests in Russia. Cohen had made his false statements to Congress, according to prosecutors, to minimize ties between Trump and the real estate project.
After Giuliani made his comments Sunday, Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, reacted to the shifting timeline, saying it was “news to me” and adding: “That is big news.”
“I would think most voters, Democrat, Republican, independent, you name it, that knowing that the Republican nominee was actively trying to do business in Moscow, that the Republican nominee, at least at one point, had offered, if he built this building, Vladimir Putin, a three-penthouse apartment, and if those negotiations were ongoing while — up till the election, I think that’s a relevant fact for voters to know,” Warner said. “And I think it’s remarkable that we’re two years after the fact and just discovering it today.”