Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, one of President Donald Trump's personal lawyers, spoke out about special counsel Robert Mueller and Michael Cohen, the attorney who spent many years working as Trump's personal "fixer," just hours after Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison for what a judge called a "smorgasbord" of crimes.
Cohen's offenses included charges related to lying to Congress about a plan to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, tax evasion, making false statements to a bank and campaign finance violations stemming from payments to two women who alleged affairs with Trump during the 2016 presidential election.
The investigation of Cohen emerged into public view in April after FBI agents raided his office, apartment and hotel room. Agents seized a trove of potential evidence contained in eight boxes of paperwork, about 30 cellphones, iPads and computers — and even the contents of one of his shredders.
In a phone conversation with Yahoo News on Wednesday, Giuliani said the Trump legal team is focused on encouraging Mueller to end his investigation into allegations of collusion between Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and the Russian government. Giuliani also claimed that Mueller lacks the authority to prosecute Trump.
"Our strategy is . . . to do everything we can to try to convince Mueller to wrap the damn thing up. And, if he's got anything, show us," Giuliani told the outlet. "If he doesn't have anything, you know, write your report. Tell us what you have, and we'll deal with it. He can't prosecute him [Trump]. All he can do is write a report about him. So write the goddamned thing, and get it over with now."
Giuliani maintained that Trump did not work with Russians to interfere in the 2016 election to bolster his own candidacy and hurt his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton. He said his confidence in this statement was based on having seen questions the special counsel submitted to the president — which Trump has claimed he has personally answered and completed — as well the belief that no one in Trump's inner circle was guilty in relation to the Russia inquiry.
"I've seen their questions. There's nothing to look at," Giuliani said. "They could look at collusion for the next 30 years and, unless they get somebody to lie, they're not going to find any evidence of it because it didn’t happen."
"I think he's desperately trying to come up with some smoke and mirrors so he can say there's some form of collusion. I don’t think he can do it," Giuliani added about Mueller. "I saw a prosecutor that was on a fishing expedition as opposed to somebody that has a solid piece of evidence and wants to nail you with it. It's like something you'd do at a beginning of a case – not the end."
While Trump and his allies have argued Mueller's findings so far indicate that prosecutors have found zero evidence of potential collusion with Russia, U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia directed a broad cyber-campaign to interfere in the 2016 election to boost Trump. In July, Mueller's team indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers in a sustained effort to hack the computer networks of the Democratic National Committee, Clinton's presidential campaign and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in the weeks ahead of the 2016 election. The special counsel's investigation has come under fierce criticism from Trump and his supporters in Congress, who claim it is a "witch hunt" and a politically motivated effort to undercut the president.
Giuliani also slammed Cohen, who was previously one of the president's most loyal and ardent defenders in business in politics, as a "completely dishonorable person." Cohen also served as a top executive at Trump's real estate company. "I've never heard of a lawyer that tape-recorded their client without the client's permission, and I've known some pretty scummy lawyers," Giuliani said. "You don't exist very long in the legal profession if you go around taping your client."
Trump's former personal lawyer received a reduced sentence, because he pleaded guilty and cooperated with federal prosecutors. Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign finance charges last month and admitted that he had paid off the adult film star Stormy Daniels "at the direction of the candidate," referring to Trump, "for the principal purpose of influencing the election" for president in 2016. The $130,000 payment to Daniels is considered by the government to be an illegal donation to Trump's campaign since it was intended to improve Trump's election chances. The legal limit for individual contributions is $2,700 in a general election.
Cohen also admitted that he arranged a $150,000 payment by American Media Inc. to a former Playboy playmate, Karen McDougal, in late summer 2016 to silence her about an alleged affair she says she had with Trump. On Wednesday, AMI admitted it paid hush money to McDougal before the 2016 election and said it would cooperate with prosecutors.
Trump and his legal team, meanwhile, have attempted to downplay the crimes that Cohen pleaded guilty to and implicated the president in. Trump has said that Cohen deserves a "full and complete" sentence. The president at first denied having the affairs, but later acknowledged them. This week, he insisted that the hush-money payments to women were "a simple private transaction" rather than a violation of campaign finance law. He also said that, even if the hush-money payments were campaign transactions, any failure to obey federal election regulations should be considered only a civil offense – not a criminal one.
Giuliani pointed to Trump's lack of legal experience as a possible explanation as to why Trump thought the payment was a "private transaction" instead of an attempt to influence the outcome of the 2016 election. "The president's not a lawyer," he said. "The simple fact is that it's not a criminal violation of the campaign finance law."
Giuliani also mentioned Paul Manafort, the longtime Republican consultant who spent five months as Trump’s campaign chair during the 2016 campaign. Manafort pleaded guilty to conspiracy and witness tampering on Sept. 14, almost a year after he was first charged and following his conviction by a federal grand jury in a separate but related case on eight counts of various tax and bank fraud charges.
As part of his plea deal, Manafort agreed to cooperate with Mueller's investigation, but late last month the special counsel informed a federal judge that he had voided his cooperation agreement with Manafort. Mueller said that Manafort lied to the FBI, as well as his team, about contacts he had with Trump administration officials and his connections to Russian-linked intelligence officers two months after reaching a plea deal. Manafort was previously thought to be the star cooperator in Mueller's ongoing federal investigation.
"In Manafort's case, they really should give up at this point. I mean, how much do you want to do to the guy? Do you want to waterboard him? I mean, come on, you have him in solitary confinement. They take him out every other day," Giuliani said. "He knows exactly what he has to say to get out. But he says, you know, 'I'm not going to say it, because it's not true.' Gee, is it possible? Maybe he's right? It isn't true?"