Terry H. Schwadron
Jan. 22, 2019
If you, like me, just close your ears when Rudy Giuliani rises on his hind legs to bay at the moon again, you may have listen a second time to grasp a pretty significant admission this weekend.
Giuliani, the president’s public relations lawyer, told “Meet the Press” on Sundaythat Team Trump had continued conversations about the Trump Tower Moscow project throughout 2016 — not through January 2016, as former Trump fixer Michael Cohen had originally testified to Congress.
For Giuliani, it was all part of muddying the waters about a BuzzFeed article last week that had said President Trump directed former fixer Michael Cohen to lie about the projects in congressional testimony — a crime. Although the special counsel’s office had said parts of the story were inaccurate, Giuliani saw reason to underscore that the president and Cohen might have had conversations at any time during 2016, and that was perfectly fine.
That means, he said, that there well could have been conversations between Trump and Cohen about the Moscow project in October and November — all the way to the election, the period covered by the written questions that Giuliani and Trump submitted to Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III.
But what it also means is that candidate Donald Trump was openly and baldly lying to voters — you and me — about whether he had business dealings in Russia.
That may or may not eventually matter to Mueller, who is hunting down evidence that could result in criminal charges, but, I must say, it matters to me. I do think that this kind of lie, that a candidate for president was engaging with top levels of leadership in Russia at the same time, would have influenced the vote.
This is not a misstatement or a hyperbolic claim as in having had the world’s biggest brain or the biggest inauguration crowd.
This is about absolutely lying to the American people about having personal business arrangements for a huge construction project that had to gain the approval of Russian President Vladimir V. Putin — — lying that occurred as candidate Trump swore up and down that he had no dealings with Russia and was calling on Russia to go after Hillary Clinton’s missing emails. It was at the same time that members of his coterie were pursuing relationships or working to create back-door communication paths or seeking their own lucrative relationships with Russian contacts.
Here’s what Giuliani said: “The conversations lasted throughout parts of 2016. The president is not sure exactly when they ended. I would say Michael Cohen would have a much better recollection of it than the president.”
When one us of pressed him on what he meant by “throughout 2016, Giuliani added, “Could be up to as far as October, November. Our answers cover until the election.”
The New York Times explainedthat Giuliani’s answer was significant.
“The new timetable means that Trump was seeking a deal at the time he was calling for an end to economic sanctions against Russia imposed by the Obama administration. He was seeking a deal when he gave interviews questioning the legitimacy of NATO, a favorite talking point of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. And he was seeking a deal when, in July 2016, he called on Russia to release hacked Democratic emails that Putin’s government was rumored at the time to have stolen.”
Giuliani — and by extension, the president — seem to care greatly about ensuring that their written answers to Mueller’s questions are either truthful or irrelevant. By comparison, there seems to be no concern about what candidate Trump had told voters.
Throughout 2016, Trump repeatedly denied have any business relationships in Russia. “I mean I have nothing to do with Russia. I don’t have any jobs in Russia. I’m all over the world but we’re not involved in Russia,” he said on July 26, 2016.
Giuliani also acknowledged that Trump might have talked to Cohen about his congressional testimony. “As far as I know, President Trump did not have discussions with [Cohen], certainly had no discussions with him in which he told him or counseled him to lie,” Giuliani said on CNN. “If — if he had any discussions with him, they’d be about the version of the events that Michael Cohen gave them, which they all believed was true. I believed it was true. I still believe it may be true, because, unlike these people who want to just believe him, I believe Michael Cohen is a serial liar.”
When CNN’s Jake Tapper told Giuliani that he just acknowledged Trump might have talked to Cohen about his testimony, Giuliani responded, “Which would be perfectly normal, which the president believed was true.”
Is it perfectly normal for the president of the United States to have a conversation with someone who was going to testify before Congress — and who later admitted lying about his testimony?
Apparently, lying to authorities matters when you might get caught. Lying to voters seems not to matter at all.