January 20, 2019

Sunday School 1/20/19

Boy, it was a tough decision today on which lectures to attend.

On the one hand, my senator Kirsten Gillibrand was on three out of five shows, missing only NBC's Meet the Press and Fox News Sunday. On the other hand, Rudy Giuliani was on MTP and veep Mike Pence was on FNS. The one bonus is that Lindsey Graham wasn't on any of the shows, so that made them all a little more palatable.

In the end, although I try and stay away from MTP because of Chuck Todd, I caved today and went with the worst lawyer in the nation, even though it made me feel more than a little like an ambulance chaser myself.  Let's take a look at how the conversation went, starting with the BuzzFeed story that Trump told former attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress.
Chuck Todd: Are you 100% confident that the president never once asked Michael Cohen to do anything but tell the truth to Congress?
Rudy Giuliani: 100% certain of that. And also, I, you know, I should add the BuzzFeed story was a story that the president had counseled him or told him to lie and that there were tapes, and texts, and federal law enforcement sources, two of them, were cited for it.  And I spent a great deal of the day on Saturday with that because I knew from the very beginning that it wasn't true. But, I mean, to their credit, the Justice Department and the special counsel's office said that the story was inaccurate. And the inaccuracy is that there's no evidence that the president told him to lie..I can tell you his counsel to Michael Cohen throughout that entire period was, "Tell the truth."...

Staying in the same vein,
 CT: Can you share what communication the president had with Michael Cohen about Trump Tower Moscow, and can you share the last time they talked about Trump Tower Moscow?
RG: Probably can't do that for two reasons. I wasn't his lawyer at the time. I just came into it in April, which now seems like two years ago, but it's less than a year. And second, a lot of that after the investigation would be privileged. I can tell you, however, before the investigation, during the period that they're looking at, they did have conversations about it. The conversations lasted throughout parts of 2016. The president is not sure exactly when they ended... 
Todd wondered about Rudy's answer.
CT: Well, you just said there - you said the president is not sure when talks ended. I'm guessing you had to answer this question in written from, by, by Mr. Mueller.
Giuliani affirmed that was correct. 
CT: So, right, it's your understanding it ended when? In January as Michael Cohen - 
RG: well, listen -- no, no, no... It's out understanding that it - that they went on throughout 2016. Weren't a lot of them, but there were conversations. Can't be sure of the exact date. But the president can remember having conversations with him about it...
 The president also remembers - yeah, probably up - could be up to as far as October, November. Our answers cover until the election. So anytime during that period they could've talked about it. But the president's recollection of it is that the thing had petered out quite a bit... remember, 2015, 2016, he's running against 16 people for president...
And I know that. I was with him, like, for five months. His concentration was 100% on running for president.
The discussion continued in this vein for a while, with Giuliani deflecting that the president put any specific importance on the Moscow deal, more like something they had random conversations about until it ended up not going anywhere after the non-binding letter of intent was submitted. He refused to characterize it as an active 'deal' choosing to call it an active proposal.
It's like my business. I make proposals to do security work. Probably got six of them out right now. If you were to ask me, "what countries am I doing business in?" I'd just tell you the two I'm doing business in. Not the other six because I may never do business there. 
They then turned to collusion. Todd played the tape of Rudy's conversation with Chris Cuomo on CNN, which in a nutshell was that Giuliani said he never said anything about their being collusion between the campaign or people on the campaign, he only said the president didn't collude with Russia. And then Todd played tape of the president saying there was no collusion involving him or his campaign and Giuliani saying he knows, "from having been on the campaign that there was no contact with Russians, no discussion with Russians."

Giuliani explained that
Most of the times I said it (no collusion involving the campaign) back then I qualified it with "to my knowledge," which is, of course, all I would know. So if I'm saying there's no collusion on the campaign, of course I didn't know everyone on the campaign. To my knowledge, there's no collusion on the campaign. I probably didn't qualify it every time I said it... I wouldn't know everything that happened. I represent the president. I know his knowledge directly, talking to him. I'm in a strange position of having been intimately involved in a large part of the campaign. I know what I know from that...
 Todd pointed out that some people might wonder whether Giuliani was confident Trump was being 100% truthful with him., given that he's had to 'tell more of the story' a few times now.
Yes, absolutely. I don't tell you more of the story. It is true that in the first month or two I didn't know it. And I had to, I had to learn it. Probably since May I haven't learned any new fats except the few things that have come along...If you ask me a general question, I'll give you a general answer. If you ask me a specific question, I'll give you a specific answer.  And then I have the problem of being a lawyer where I have to qualify...
To wrap things up, they moved to the subject of William Barr, Trump's nominee to replace Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III (I miss him, I do) as AG. Todd wondered about Barr's statement that a sitting president can obstruct justice.  He wondered if Giuliani still disagreed with that statement.

He said he agrees with Barr, but that firing someone, for example, is not obstruction absent any other corrupt act, according to the Constitution. He went on, though, to describe what obstruction looks like - and doesn't.
If, for example, a president said "leave office, or I'm going to, you know, have your kids kidnapped," or, "I'm going to break your legs." Obstruction -- I prosecuted a lot of obstruction cases. I'll give you an example. When the president said, "Please go easy on Flynn," I know of no obstruction case that begins with the word "please." It goes something like this. "If you don't go easy on Flynn, I'll break you kneecaps." An obstruction case has to involve some degree of corrupt act other than just making a request or just exercising a legal function.  
So there you have it.

See you around campus. 

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