Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump's personal attorney, made several attempts on Thursday to clarify an assertion he made during a Wednesday night CNN interview in which he claimed that he "never said" the Trump campaign didn't collude with Russia.
That comment runs counter to his and President Donald Trump's past remarks on the matter. Trump has repeatedly asserted that his campaign did not collude with Russian officials. The issue of whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia is a question at the heart of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
"I never said there was no collusion between the campaign or between people in the campaign," Giuliani told CNN's Chris Cuomo, who immediately pushed back on that point.
"I have not," Giuliani said in doubling-down on his first remark. "I said the president of the United States. There is not a single bit of evidence the president of the United States committed the only crime you could commit here, conspired with the Russians to hack the DNC."
Thursday morning, Giuliani sought to clear up his remarks. In an interview with NBC News, Giuliani denied that he had reversed himself on the issue of collusion.
"No," he said, when asked if his comments Wednesday night represented a change from his previous remarks. "If it was, it was subconscious."
"I represent the president. I can speak only to the president, not the campaign. The president was not involved in, nor does the president have any knowledge of collusion with the Russians or anyone else. I have no knowledge that anyone on the campaign colluded, but obviously I cannot speak for everyone on the campaign," he added.
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He also issued a written statement, obtained by NBC News, in order "to clarify my comments during the Cuomo interview because they have been misinterpreted."
"I represent only President Trump not the Trump campaign. 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 wrote.
In July 2018, the president's attorney said in Fox New interview that there had been "no collusion," but that "collusion is not a crime." At that time, he asserted that no one in "the upper levels of the Trump campaign" colluded with Russia, adding that he had "no reason to believe anybody else did" either.
Trump has repeatedly and emphatically denied that any collusion between his campaign and Russia took place.
"There was nobody to collude with," Trump said at a press conference alongside Vladimir Putin last summer. "There was no collusion with the campaign."
In a tweet from last February, Trump said his campaign "did nothing wrong — no collusion!"
And prior to his former national security adviser Michael Flynn's sentencing hearing last month, Trump tweeted that it was going to be "interesting to see what he has to say, despite tremendous pressure being put on him, about Russian Collusion in our great and, obviously, highly successful political campaign."
"There was no Collusion!" he added.
Giuliani, in his interview with NBC News, also said that the president's legal team would not have answered any of Mueller's questions related to the Russia probe if they had known about the FBI's inquiry into whether Trump was secretly working on behalf of Russia in the wake of former FBI director James Comey's firing in May 2017.
The New York Times, citing former law enforcement officials and other familiar with the investigation, reported earlier this month that law enforcement officials were so concerned by the president's actions during that period that a counterintelligence investigation was opened, which included probing whether Trump sought to obstruct justice when he fired Comey.
"If I had known about the counterintelligence probe, I probably wouldn’t have answered any of the questions," Giuliani said, "because I would have said the investigation is completely illegitimate and I don't know why we’re cooperating with it."
The Washington Post reported in June 2017 that Mueller's Russia investigation had widened to include examining possible obstruction of justice — and while the special counsel reportedly sought to ask Trump about obstruction, the president's legal team pushed back.
After months of jockeying over what information the president would provide, Trump's legal team submitted written answers to Mueller's questions in November 2018, answers which Trump told reporters he had written himself.
In a statement at the time, Trump attorney Jay Sekulow said the questions presented to them by Mueller "dealt with issues regarding the Russia-related topics of the inquiry" and were not related to possible obstruction of justice.