Rudy Giuliani 'doubts' president knew about 2016 meeting in which Russian demanded $2m for damaging information
Donald Trump's lawyer said on Sunday he "doubted" the president knew about a newly reported May 2016 meeting between sometime adviser Roger Stone and a Russian offering damaging information about Hillary Clinton, then Trump's rival for the White House.
"I doubt it," Rudy Giuliani told CNN's State of the Union. "I certainly didn't know about it. It's news to me, I just read it here in the Washington Post."
The Post reported the meeting on Sunday. It named the Russian as Harry Greenberg, a resident of Florida, and said he demanded $2m for the purported information.
Stone, a Republican operative since the Nixon era who at the time of the meeting was not a formal member of the Trump campaign, had denied meeting any Russians in connection with the election. He told the Post he rejected the offer and told Greenberg: "You don't understand Donald Trump. He doesn't pay for anything."
The Post also reported text messages between Stone and Michael Caputo, then a Trump communications official who arranged the meeting.
"How crazy is the Russian?" Caputo wrote.
"Noting that Greenberg wanted 'big' money," the Post reported, "Stone replied: 'waste of time'."
Greenberg described to the Post details of the meeting and conversation which were similar to those provided by Stone.
Caputo told the paper he has been asked about the meeting by investigators working for Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating Russian election interference and alleged collusion between Trump aides and Moscow. Stone has said he expects Mueller to indict him, in order to "silence" him.
On CBS's Face the Nation, Giuliani said: "Roger Stone met - apparently met with them, I don't know. I haven't talked to Roger. He's never talked to the president about it. So where's the collusion? And he said it was a waste of time. So yeah, sure there was contact as there was in that meeting. But that meeting led to nothing. This led to nothing. So if anything it's proof there was no collusion."
The Post also cited court records it said showed that Greenberg, also known as Henry Oknyansky, has worked as an FBI informant. Nothing, it said, indicated he was working with the FBI at the time of the meeting with Stone.
Trump and aides including Giuliani have attacked the FBI over a Department of Justice report into the former director James Comey's handling of the investigation into Clinton's use of personal email. The president continued to do so on Sunday.
Caputo and Stone claimed to have been framed, the former telling the Post: "If you believe that [Greenberg] took time off from his long career as an FBI informant to reach out to us in his spare time, I have a bridge in Brooklyn that I want to sell you."
However, Stone's investigation of an offer of information occurred shortly after a foreign policy adviser, George Papadopoulos, was told Russians had dirt on Clinton. Shortly after Stone's meeting, Donald Trump Jr, Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner and his then campaign manager Paul Manafort met at Trump Tower in Manhattan with Russians who Trump Jr was told also had such information.
A statement dictated by Trump about that meeting and proven to be false has become the focus of speculation about potential obstruction of justice. Speaking to reporters at the White House on Friday, Trump claimed that as the statement was made to "the phoney, failing New York Times" and not "a high tribunal of judges", its lack of veracity was not a problem. Giuliani defended that claim on Sunday.
Papadopoulos is co-operating with Mueller. So is former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who resigned over meetings with a Russian official. Manafort, whose former deputy Rick Gates is also co-operating, was jailed on Friday to await court proceedings over financial charges he denies, after allegations of witness tampering.
Speculation continues about the intentions of Michael Cohen, Trump's personal lawyer whose work premises and home were raided by the FBI in a separate case in April, on referral from Mueller. It was reported this week that a law firm representing Cohen will no longer do so and that Cohen, who has not been charged, is considering co-operation.
Giuliani told CBS negotiations for an interview between Trump and investigators were continuing, the White House preferring "something in writing responded to in writing and it can be under oath". However, he also said: "Think we've already agreed that it should be just audio recorded."
Any interview would be time-limited too, he said: "We think two hours, they probably think four, so let's settle with three."
Trump's intentions regarding potential pardons have also been widely discussed. Giuliani told CNN the president was "not going to issue pardons in this investigation".
"And my advice to him, as long as I'm his lawyer, is not to do it," he said. "Because you just cloud what is becoming now a very clear picture of an extremely unfair investigation with no criminality involved of any kind.'
That did not mean, Giuliani said, that pardons would not be possible after the Mueller investigation was over.
"'When it's over, hey, he's the president of the United States," he said. "He retains his pardon power. Nobody's taking that away from him."
Trump returned to the issue later, tweeting: "WITCH HUNT! There was no Russian Collusion. Oh, I see, there was no Russian Collusion, so now they look for obstruction on the no Russian Collusion. The phony Russian Collusion was a made up Hoax. Too bad they didn't look at Crooked Hillary like this. Double Standard!"
More succinctly, Giuliani claimed to CBS: "Mueller has no evidence of collusion. How about this? There was none. The president of United States did nothing wrong. He was not involved with Russians. They can investigate from here to Timbuktu. They're not going to find a darn thing."