Rudolph W. Giuliani disparaged President Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen on Monday as a “scumbag” and accused him of doctoring audio from conversations he recorded between himself and Mr. Trump.
And Mr. Giuliani, in an interview with CNN, said he’s not sure Mr. Trump could be charged with collusion even if prosecutors alleged he coordinated with Russian operatives during the 2016 election.
“I don’t even know if that’s a crime, colluding about Russians,” said Mr. Giuliani, who took over as Mr. Trump’s lawyer. “You start analyzing the crime — the hacking is the crime. The president didn’t hack. He didn’t pay them for hacking.”
He continued to denounce the ongoing probe by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into Russian meddling in the election and said he has advised against the president sitting for an interview with investigators, arguing they’re acting “in bad faith.”
But Mr. Giuliani said Mr. Trump himself hasn’t ruled it out.
“What I think and what I know may be two different things,” the lawyer said. “I think he shouldn’t [sit down with Mueller]. I know how convinced he is that he didn’t do anything wrong and wants to explain it.”
Mr. Giuliani had earlier praised Mr. Cohen for his work on behalf of Mr. Trump. Now, though, he says neither he nor the president were aware of the lawyer’s clandestine behavior in taping people without their knowledge.
CNN reported on one of those tapes involving a conversation in which Mr. Trump appears to discuss, just weeks before the presidential election, authorizing payments to secure the silence of a Playboy model who said she had a sexual relationship with the tycoon.
Mr. Giuliani said there are 183 tapes in total, but only one has a conversation with the president. The rest of the recordings are mostly of reporters and some businessmen, and none of the people on the tapes knew they were being recorded, Mr. Giuliani said.
Mr. Cohen will reportedly cooperate with Mr. Mueller.
CNN, citing unnamed sources, reported last week that Mr. Cohen is willing to claim that Mr. Trump gave the green light for the now infamous Trump Tower meeting in June 2016 between Russian operatives and campaign officials, including Donald Trump Jr.
Mr. Giuliani said Mr. Cohen betrayed the president on a Shakespearean level, akin to Iago turning on Othello or when “Brutus put the last knife in Caesar.”
If Mr. Cohen’s claims can be proven, it would be a major blow to the president, who has adamantly denied any collusion with Russians during the 2016 election.
Mr. Giuliani also said the Trump team is still negotiating with Mr. Mueller over conditions for a meeting. They sent their last proposal 10 days ago, but haven’t heard back. One such condition is that the president will not answer questions about obstruction, but Mr. Giuliani said they may consider some obstruction inquiries if they are submitted.
Mr. Trump harshly criticized Mr. Mueller’s role in the probe Sunday, claiming conflicts of interest.
“Is Robert Mueller ever going to release his conflicts of interest with respect to President Trump, including the fact that we had a very nasty & contentious business relationship, I turned him down to head the FBI (one day before appointment as S.C.) & Comey is his close friend,” Mr. Trump tweeted.
Mr. Giuliani on Monday confirmed the business relationship existed, but refused to give any detail on the matter.
“He’s referring to a dispute that I imagine [Mr. Mueller] disclosed it to [Deputy Attorney General Rod] Rosenstein when he appointed him, because it involved something that wasn’t settled and still isn’t to this day,” “But that’s up to the president and Mueller to describe. It’s not part of my legal representation.”