GETTY IMAGESJASON KEMPIN.
One of the most reliable joys of political journalism in this very weird political moment is the series of interviews that Isaac Chotiner is doing for The New Yorker. His latest is a chat with Rudy Giuliani and, yes, there are moments in it that will make you stop so hard that your eyeballs shoot out three feet and then snap back. This is one of them.
Chotiner and Giuliani were talking about the BuzzFeed News story from last week about how the president* allegedly instructed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress regarding the prospective Trump Tower project in Moscow. And this ensued:
RG: I can’t discuss that. President Trump would not have done that. If anybody would have done it, obviously it would have been his lawyers, and I really can’t discuss that. That would be confidential.
IC: Do you—
RG: But I can tell you, from the moment I read the story, I knew the story was false.
RG: Because I have been through all the tapes, I have been through all the texts, I have been through all the e-mails, and I knew none existed. And then, basically, when the special counsel said that, just in case there are any others I might not know about, they probably went through others and found the same thing.
IC: Wait, what tapes have you gone through?
RG: I shouldn’t have said tapes. They alleged there were texts and e-mails that corroborated that Cohen was saying the President told him to lie. There were no texts, there were no e-mails, and the President never told him to lie.
Mr. Butterfield? History calling on Line One.
IC: So, there were no tapes you listened to, though?
RG: No tapes. Well, I have listened to tapes, but none of them concern this.
Oh, OK. If you follow the link embedded in the interview, you come to a CNN report from last July when a tape emerged on which the president* and Cohen were heard discussing hush-money payments to Stormy Daniels. That may be all this is about but I think Chotiner spoke for all of us with that, “Wait. What tapes have you gone through?” It gets a little nuttier further on:
IC: The quote in the story from you is that the “ ‘discussions were going on from the day I announced to the day I won,’ Mr. Giuliani quoted Mr. Trump as saying during an interview with The New York Times.”
RG: I did not say that.
IC: The Times just made that quote up?
RG: I don’t know if they made it up. What I was talking about was, if he had those conversations, they would not be criminal.
IC: If he had them, but he didn’t have them?
RG: He didn’t have the conversations. Lawyers argue in the alternative. If we went to court, we would say we don’t have to prove whether it’s true or not true, because, even if it’s true, it’s not criminal. And that’s why Mueller will not charge him with it.
IC: Does it matter to the American people if it’s true? We are living in a democracy here. We want to know these things.
RG: That’s an insane question you just asked me. I am not saying that he did it. I just told you he didn’t do it. I am telling you that their investigation is so ridiculous that, even if he did do it, it wouldn’t be a crime. Now, would the American people be interested in it? Of course. There’s a big difference between what the American people would be interested in and what’s a crime. The American people can be interested in a lot of things people conceal that aren’t crimes. I’m a criminal lawyer. I am not an ethicist. And I defend people against unfair criminal charges.