The Slatest

Giuliani Says Trump Admits Moscow Project Talks Lasted Until Election Day but Later Backtracks

President Donald Trump makes a statement about immigration and the border wall from the diplomatic reception room of the White House January 19, 2019 in Washington, D.C.
President Donald Trump makes a statement about immigration and the border wall from the diplomatic reception room of the White House January 19, 2019 in Washington, D.C. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/Getty Images

The timeline has shifted yet again. Rudy Giuliani admitted on Sunday that the Trump Organization continued talking to Russian officials about building a skyscraper in Moscow throughout the entire presidential campaign. That is much longer than previously acknowledged and means that Donald Trump only stopped trying to seal a deal after Americans elected him to become commander in chief. In an interview with the New York Times, Giuliani quoted the president as saying that the Trump Tower Moscow discussions went on “from the day I announced to the day I won.” (Update at 4:20 p.m.: Giuliani later denied this, issuing a statement saying that his “statements about discussions during the 2016 campaign between Michael Cohen and then-candidate Donald Trump about a potential Trump Moscow ‘project’ were hypothetical and not based on conversations I had with the President. My comments did not represent the actual timing or circumstances of any such discussions. The point is that the proposal was in the earliest stage and did not advance beyond a free non-binding letter of intent.)

In an interview with NBC News on Sunday, Giuliani said the conversations over the Moscow deal lasted well into 2016. “The conversations lasted throughout parts of 2016. The president is not sure exactly when they ended. I would say Michael Cohen would have a much better recollection of it than the president,” Giuliani said. When pressed for more detail, Giuliani said, “Could be up to as far as October, November. Our answers cover until the election.”

The New York Times summarizes just why this new timeline is so significant:

The new timetable means that Mr. Trump was seeking a deal at the time he was calling for an end to economic sanctions against Russia imposed by the Obama administration. He was seeking a deal when he gave interviews questioning the legitimacy of NATO, a favorite talking point of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. And he was seeking a deal when, in July 2016, he called on Russia to release hacked Democratic emails that Mr. Putin’s government was rumored at the time to have stolen.

In addition, Trump flat out denied in 2016 that he had any relationship with Russia. “I mean I have nothing to do with Russia. I don’t have any jobs in Russia. I’m all over the world but we’re not involved in Russia,” he said on July 26, 2016. Then during the second presidential debate, Hillary Clinton said Trump “maybe … wants to do business in Moscow,” which Trump characterized as “so ridiculous.” He added, “I know nothing about Russia … I don’t deal there.”

Giuliani also reiterated what he told CNN Sunday that Trump might have talked to his longtime lawyer Michael Cohen before his congressional testimony. But he vehemently denied a BuzzFeed report that Trump had encouraged Cohen to lie. Although Giuliani couched it as a possibility, he did say Trump acknowledged discussing the Moscow project with Cohen in his written answers to the special counsel. But he noted there was no specific question about the timeline of those talks in relationship to congressional testimony. “There was no question that he was asked by the special counsel a question that said, ‘Did you talk to him before he testified?’” Giuliani said. “There were questions like, ‘Did you talk about the Moscow project with Michael Cohen?’ to which we answered yes.”