Rudy Giuliani expects that President Donald Trump and his legal team will have decided how to proceed with special counsel Robert Mueller’s request for an interview in about two weeks — “with a little fudge room” for the president’s international obligations.
“I think we can get ourselves decided by two weeks — with a little fudge room for what’s going on right now, which appears to be getting hotter and heavier with Iran, in a positive way North Korea, and China,” Giuliani, the president’s outside lawyer for the Russia investigation, said in an interview with BuzzFeed News Tuesday.
“I played golf with him on Sunday, and we spent maybe a half-hour talking about the case, and then the rest of the time he was relaxing and talking about golf and sports and a little bit about other things — but not the case,” Giuliani said. “I know he can function on about five different levels — or about five different tracks. I don’t like it though — even for the country.”
“We can think about it,” he said of the legal team’s work addressing the special counsel’s investigation. “But he shouldn’t be.”
Giuliani then veered into making an argument. “That’s why the president has immunity from criminal prosecution and process," he said, "because the president — and, right now, it applies probably more than ever — the president’s engaged in exceedingly sensitive negotiations with Korea, very sensitive decision-making with Iran, constant talk with our allies.” (Although the president’s immunity from criminal prosecution while in office is the more widely accepted position, including from the Justice Department, the question does not have an absolutely clear answer — and there have been prominent legal voices who disagree.)
Once Trump is able to devote time to Mueller probe, Giuliani said, his lawyers will need “substantial time” with the president. The legal team still hasn’t decided whether the president will agree to an interview with the special counsel — a possibility that reportedly led Mueller to threaten that he could seek to subpoena Trump to testify.
Giuliani’s comments to BuzzFeed News came after a series of conflicting or shifting statements over the past week, beginning with his appearance on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show, in which he said Trump had repaid his attorney Michael Cohen for the October 2016 payment he made to Stormy Daniels. By Friday, Giuliani had to issue a “clarifying” statement, but still left many questions unanswered — leading to an awkward interview with George Stephanopoulos on Sunday and reports that Trump was complaining about his performance.
He acknowledged those difficulties to BuzzFeed News Tuesday, admitting that “we’ve been a little fudge-y on some things.” Asked if he himself had a better handle on things, Giuliani said, “Increasingly, every day, yes, of course.”
Does he think the president remains happy with his performance?
“I know he is,” Giuliani said simply, saying that they had spoken on Monday and spent breakfast and lunch together in addition to golfing on Sunday. “We are definitely on the same page, as they say.”
After spending his initial weeks on Trump’s legal team focused on the April 9 searches of Cohen’s properties, Giuliani said the president’s legal team has now returned its attention to Mueller’s investigation — and his request that Trump sit down for an interview with him.
“We have gotten ourselves off of Cohen and onto Mueller. So, on Cohen, we’ll do the rest of our education later,” Giuliani said. (This interview took place before the latest Cohen-related story broke Tuesday.)
The special counsel, appointed a little less than a year ago to investigate any ties between the Trump campaign and Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election, has been seeking an interview with Trump for months.
“[W]e’re not going to let him make a decision without full analysis, so, I’m sorry, they’re just going to have to wait a while,” Giuliani said. “They walked themselves into this by waiting so long. And also, this could have been resolved if they hadn’t done that whole thing with Cohen — before I got here, they were on their way to a decision on that.”
Trump’s lawyers had a previously scheduled meeting with the special counsel’s office to discuss the possibility of an interview on the day of the FBI’s raids on Cohen’s properties. But Trump’s anger at the searches halted those talks for a time.
“[T]he Cohen thing set them back,” Giuliani said.
The search warrants, however, were executed by the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York — not the special counsel’s office.
Asked about that, Giuliani shot back, “But it was the Justice Department,” noting that DOJ officials had signed off on the search warrants. The same thing is true, ultimately, of any decisions made by the special counsel’s office, he said: “Remember, the Justice Department finally decides — not Mueller.”
For that reason, he said, Trump’s lawyers “have to be concerned about Justice as well.”
Giuliani also argued that it wasn’t just the Cohen searches that slowed down talks between Trump’s lawyers and the special counsel.
“The disclosure of the questions” that Mueller is reportedly seeking to ask Trump to the New York Times and later the Washington Post were another setback, Giuliani said. He quickly added, “I’m not blaming that on them. It could have been a friendly leak — because that leak doesn’t help them at all. It just shows that they seem to be nowhere on their investigation.”
“Most importantly,” Giuliani said, were the questions raised by a federal judge in Virginia about the motivation for Paul Manafort’s indictment by the special counsel’s office. In a hearing Friday, District Judge T.S. Ellis III suggested the purpose was to get Manafort “to sing” and was skeptical of whether the allegations properly “arose … from” the special counsel’s investigation — a reference to the authorization given to Mueller under his appointment.
Ellis’s comments, Giuliani said, “have really thrown this into a new dimension if there’s a real possibility they [the special counsel’s office] don’t have authorization.” If Ellis were to rule against the special counsel’s office — by deciding Mueller was not authorized to bring the case against Manafort — “they’re going to have a big problem.”