That false testimony was the subject of BuzzFeed News’ contested report last week that alleged Trump had directed Cohen to lie. The story went unconfirmed by other journalists and, in a rare rebuke, was challenged by the special counsel’s spokesman, who said, “BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the special counsel’s office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s congressional testimony are not accurate.” (In a story Sunday on Giuliani’s comments, the news outlet said it continues to stand by its reporting.)
After Giuliani said BuzzFeed should be “sued” and “under investigation”—though any government probe would likely violate the First Amendment—he addressed the details of the story and conceded that Trump may have talked with Cohen about his testimony, though not to plan a lie.
“As far as I know, President Trump did not have discussions with [Cohen about his testimony], certainly had no discussions with him in which he told him or counseled him to lie,” Giuliani said on CNN’s State of the Union. “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.”
“And so what if he talked to him about it?” Giuliani added, seeming to argue that Trump could not have told Cohen to lie, because the president didn’t independently remember the details of Russian negotiations but instead depended on Cohen for the timeline. “Michael Cohen was the guy in charge of this,” Giuliani said. “President Trump was running for president. So … you go to Michael Cohen, you say, ‘Michael, what happened?’”
Cohen is expected to testify again before both houses of Congress, beginning February 7 with an appearance before the House Oversight Committee. Representative Adam Schiff, the California Democrat who this month took charge of the House Intelligence Committee, said on CBS’s Face the Nation that he’s “given Michael Cohen a date that we’d like him to come in, either voluntarily or, if necessary, by subpoena.” Senator Mark Warner, the Virginia Democrat who’s the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on NBC that he and Chairman Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican, got Cohen to agree to a public hearing.
Warner also dismissed Giuliani as a spokesman for a client whose account keeps changing. “I almost feel bad for him,” the senator said. “He keeps having to readjust his stories as more facts come out.”
Read: House Democrats shift their focus from collusion to leverage
Democrats have charged that Trump misled Americans about his pursuit of business in Russia, but Giuliani quibbled over semantics to deflect that criticism.
In July 2016, then-candidate Trump tweeted that he had “ZERO interests in Russia” and said he had nothing to do with the country. In an October debate with Hillary Clinton, he said, “I don’t deal there. I have no businesses there. I have no loans from Russia.” About a week before his January 2017 inauguration, he tweeted in capital letters that “I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA—NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!”