President Trump’s personal attorney, Rudolph W. Giuliani, on Thursday dialed back a comment that had left open the possibility that members of Trump’s 2016 campaign may have conspired with Russia, saying he did not intend to suggest any conspiracy or wrongdoing.
On Wednesday night, Giuliani contradicted repeated denials from Trump and his team that there was “no collusion” between the campaign and Russians by asserting on CNN, “I never said there was no collusion between the campaign or between people in the campaign.”
When anchor Chris Cuomo responded, “Yes, you have,” Giuliani replied: “I have not. I said ‘the president of the United States.’ ”
The surprising statement was widely interpreted as a shifting of the goal posts by Trump’s team in light of a recent discovery as part of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation — that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort shared 2016 polling data with an associate with alleged ties to Russian intelligence.
In a written statement, as well as in a telephone interview with The Washington Post, Giuliani said he can speak only for his client, the president, and not for those who worked on the Trump campaign, adding that his knowledge is limited to Trump’s actions.
“I represent only President Trump not the Trump campaign,” Giuliani’s statement read. “There was no collusion by President Trump in any way, shape or form. Likewise, I have no knowledge of any collusion by any of the thousands of people who worked on the campaign.”
Giuliani’s efforts to create distance between the president and top aides ensnared in the special counsel investigation come amid new signs of how extensively Mueller has mapped interactions between Trump associates and Russians in his 20-month-long investigation.
Manafort is among at least 14 Trump associates who interacted with Russians during the campaign and transition, according to public records and interviews.
Giuliani told The Post that he is “not worried” about the Manafort case.
“With regard to the president, he was not involved in any collusion in any way, and he has no knowledge of any collusion,” Giuliani said. “The rest I can’t be responsible for, except I can tell you the state of my knowledge, which is that I have no knowledge that anyone on the campaign illegally colluded with the Russians.”
New details about what Manafort and Konstantin Kilimnik discussed during the campaign emerged last week when Manafort’s team sought to rebut the allegation by the special counsel that Manafort lied to investigators after he pleaded guilty last fall and agreed to cooperate.
In sections of a court filing that they had intended to be sealed from public view, Manafort’s lawyers appeared to acknowledge that he shared polling data related to the presidential election with Kilimnik, a Russian employee of his consulting business who prosecutors said was identified by the FBI as having ties to Russian intelligence during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Asked about Manafort’s sharing polling data, Giuliani said Trump “didn’t know about it. Does it lead to anything else? I don’t think so. So far, every one of these things has turned out to be nothing.”
Even as he said he could not speak for Manafort, Giuliani went on to play down the significance of Manafort’s relationship with Kilimnik, who had helped him navigate the Ukrainian political scene.
“Sharing polling data with Ukranians who happen to have or are alleged to have a favorable relationship with Russia? They’re not Russians,” Giuliani said. “They’re not Russian government officials. I don’t know. It would be like sharing polling data with an English guy and say we’re colluding with America. It’s really far afield. We’re at a point where everything becomes hysteria.”
Also in the interview, Giuliani said Trump would have considered not cooperating with the Mueller investigation had he known that after he fired James B. Comey as FBI director in May 2017, the FBI launched a counterintelligence probe into whether the president was working for the Russians.
After more than a year of negotiations over the special counsel’s interview request, Trump last November submitted written answers to questions from Mueller about the president’s knowledge of Russia’s election interference.
Asked whether Trump would have not provided those answers had he known about the FBI counterintelligence investigation, Giuliani said, “It would certainly have been a great consideration.”
“We were very close on whether to do it or not,” Giuliani said. “A lot of the doing it had to do with their good faith. That investigation, if it’s true, seems like a pure vindictive misuse of a counterintelligence investigation.”