Rudy Giuliani goes off-script on CNN, drops "no collusion" defense of Trump campaign

Giuliani insisted to CNN's Chris Cuomo that he never said there was no collusion between Russia and Trump's team

By Matthew Rozsa
Published January 17, 2019 1:11PM (UTC)
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Rudy Giuliani (Getty/Saul Loeb)

On Wednesday President Donald Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani denied that he had ever claimed there had been no collusion between the future president's campaign and the Russian government.

"If the collusion happened, it happened a long time ago. It's either provable or it's not. It's not provable because it never happened," Giuliani told Cuomo regarding the allegations of collusion, although he later clarified that he was only referring to collusion between Trump himself and Russia rather than individuals in the campaign.

"I never said there was no collusion between the campaign or between people in the campaign," Giuliani asserted.

"Yes, you have," Cuomo pointed out.

"I have no idea. I have not!" Giuliani replied. "I said the President of the United States. There is not a single bit of evidence that the President of the United States committed the only crime you could commit here: conspired with the Russians to hack the DNC."

During the interview, Cuomo and Giuliani also discussed the fact that when Paul Manafort served as the Trump campaign chairman, he allegedly convinced members of the Republican National Committee to soften the party's platform regarding Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

"And they ended up with a stronger platform on Ukraine then they started with!" Giuliani insisted.

"No they didn't," Cuomo corrected him, describing how the language was specifically designed to loosen the extent of America's commitment to protecting Ukraine from Russian aggression.

"The president had no knowledge about that. I happen to know that. I've questioned him about it," Giuliani replied.

"He didn't know his own party's platform?" Cuomo asked incredulously.

"Chris, come on you've been around politics to know candidates don't know a damn thing about the platform. They don't pay any attention to the platform!" Giuliani retorted while laughing.

"I was raised by a guy who would have corrected the punctuation in the party platform," Cuomo shot back, referring to the CNN anchor's father, former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo.

Cuomo also pointed out how, when Manafort was in charge of the campaign, he inappropriately shared polling data and that the same groups identified by the campaign as potential Clinton voters were also targeted by Russian trolls. Giuliani responded by changing the subject to the FBI counterintelligence investigation against Trump, which had begun after the firing of former FBI Director James Comey, and asked why no reporter had inquired as to its conclusion. Cuomo responded to that by saying that the investigation had been handed off to Mueller.

Giuliani denied that this is what would have happened.

"The truth about it is that if you're doing a counterintelligence investigation and you find any evidence of breach of national security, you've gotta follow up on it," Giuliani told Cuomo. "You can't refer it to a prosecutor because you have to quickly report that to people in authority so that they can protect America against a national security breach. They found no such breach."

He added, "And The New York Times left the innuendo that they might have because they didn't report that that investigation found nothing."

Another CNN anchor, Don Lemon, later reacted to the Cuomo-Giuliani debate by arguing that the former New York City mayor's behavior proved he had something to hide.

"Quite a performance, right?" Lemon said. "But make no mistake, there is a method to this madness. The president’s attorney, as he always does, laying out the groundwork there for what is to come. So stay tuned to that."

Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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