President Donald Trump’s new attorney — Rudy Giuliani — argued Sunday that the president would not have to comply should he be subpoenaed as part of the special counsel investigation into Russian election interference, and could invoke his Fifth Amendment right in order not to testify in the wide-reaching probe.
Giuliani, appearing on ABC’s “This Week,” said despite Trump publicly stating his willingness to meet with special counsel Robert Mueller, he continues to urge Trump not to submit to such an interview, saying investigators in the Russia probe were “trying to trap” the president.
“We don’t have to,” Giuliani said of Trump sitting down with Mueller, who is seeking to interview the president as he investigates purported ties between Russia and the Trump campaign. Mueller has reportedly raised the prospect of issuing a subpoena to compel Trump to testify.
Giuliani added: “He’s the president of the United States. We can assert the same privileges other presidents have.”
Giuliani’s appearance was the latest in a blitz of media interviews he has given since disclosing for the first time on Wednesday that Trump had reimbursed his former personal attorney Michael Cohen the $130,000 used to pay off porn actress Stormy Daniels days before the 2016 election. Cohen, a Long Island native, has said he paid Daniels out of his own pocket to remain quiet about her alleged affair with Trump, doing so without the president’s knowledge.
News of the reimbursement came weeks after Trump denied any knowledge of the payment to Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford.
Giuliani, the former New York City mayor and a former U.S. attorney, said Cohen, a longtime fixture at Trump Tower, no longer serves as one of Trump’s personal attorneys. He also shot down talk that Trump would issue a presidential pardon should Cohen, now the subject of a federal probe into his dealings on behalf of Trump, be convicted of any crimes.
Asked if Cohen had made any other payments to women on Trump’s behalf, Giuliani said: “I have no knowledge of that. But I would think if it was necessary, yes.”
Giuliani continued to push back against arguments made by Daniels’ attorney and other government watchdog groups, who accuse the Trump campaign of violating federal campaign finance laws by not reporting the payment on Trump’s campaign finance documents. The groups contend Cohen’s payment should have been reported because the money issued to Daniels was meant to influence the outcome of the election, but Giuliani insisted that the payment was made to protect Trump’s family and was not campaign related.
“I know this sounds funny to people there at home, I never thought $130,000 was a real payment,” Giuliani said. “It’s a nuisance payment. When I settle — when it’s a real possibility, it’s a couple million dollars, not $130,000. People don’t go away for $130,000.”
Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti, appearing right after Giuliani, told Stephanopoulos, “there is no question this had everything to do with the campaign.” Avenatti noted that reports of Daniels’ allegations of a 2006 tryst had been known for years, but Cohen did not arrange the deal until just before the election.
“I think it is obvious to the American people that this is a cover-up; that they are making it up as they go along,” Avenatti said.
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway defended Trump’s credibility on CNN on Sunday, saying that when he told White House reporters on Air Force One last month that he didn’t know about the payment to Daniels, he meant he didn’t know about the payment at the time it was made in October.
The New York Times reported Friday that Trump knew of the $130,000 payment from Cohen months before he denied it April 5.
Conway added that she did not know of the Daniels payment or any other payments when she worked on Trump’s winning 2016 campaign.
“They didn’t cross my desk as campaign manager,” she said.
Trump on Sunday, spent the day at the Trump National Golf Course in Sterling, Virginia, and avoided posting on Twitter for the day.