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Rudy Giuliani says President Trump’s legal team should be allowed to “correct” special counsel Robert Mueller’s final report before Congress or the American people get the chance to read it.
The claim, made in a telephone interview with The Hill on Thursday evening, goes further than the president’s legal advisers have ever gone before in arguing they have a right to review the conclusions of Mueller’s probe, which is now in its 20th month.
“As a matter of fairness, they should show it to you — so we can correct it if they’re wrong,” said the former New York City mayor, who is a member of Trump’s personal legal team. “They’re not God, after all. They could be wrong.”
The special counsel’s office declined to comment.
In the wide-ranging interview, Giuliani also made light of the decision by Michael Cohen — Trump’s former attorney, who was recently sentenced to three years in prison — to testify in public before the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Feb. 7.
“Big deal!” Giuliani exclaimed sarcastically.
He also downplayed this week’s revelation that the president’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, allegedly shared opinion poll data during the 2016 campaign with Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian citizen who had previously worked with Manafort in Ukraine and is suspected of having ties to Russia’s military intelligence unit, the GRU.
“Should he have done it? No. But there’s nothing criminal about it,” Giuliani said.
It is the assertion that Trump’s legal representatives should be allowed to vet Mueller’s report that carries the most profound implications, however.
Up to now, speculation has focused on the idea that the White House Counsel’s office might push back on certain disclosures within Mueller’s final report if it believes the details violate executive privilege.
Giuliani repeated that claim in a 20-minute phone interview with The Hill but went further with the suggestion of correcting purported factual errors.
Any such attempt would spark an instant political firestorm.
The question of whether Mueller will be allowed to complete his work without undue interference is already at the heart of the debate over whether the president’s nominee to be attorney general, William Barr, should be confirmed.
Republicans have insisted that Barr will behave appropriately but Democrats are dubious. Barr, they note, submitted an unsolicited memo to the Justice Department last year in which he expressed concern about “over-zealous prosecutors” investigating the president.
Even Giuliani admitted that a battle to withhold parts of Mueller’s final report would be tough to win in the court of public opinion, irrespective of its legal merits.
“Yes it is, sure. I acknowledge that,” he said.
Legal experts were skeptical of his claims.
“I don’t believe that Mueller would, unless it was so apparently wrong, correct something,” said Mark Zaid, a D.C.-based attorney who specializes in national security and whistleblower cases, and has represented clients from both parties.
Zaid also pointed to arguments made by Neal Katyal, who served as acting solicitor general during President Obama’s administration. In a Twitter thread Wednesday, Katyal laid out his reasons for believing that any effort by Trump’s team to keep the Mueller report out of the public domain would ultimately fail.
“He will lose to the public’s right to know,” Katyal wrote.
Giuliani repeatedly stressed the importance of protecting executive privilege, however.
“Of course we have to see [the report] before it goes to Congress. We have reserved executive privilege and we have a right to assert it. The only way we can assert it is if we see what is in the report.”
Mueller could issue his report in the next couple of months.
One clue came with an NBC News report this week that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had decided to step down after Mueller finishes his work — and expects to leave by early March. The New York Times also reported on Rosenstein this week, saying he plans to step down after the Senate confirms Barr as the next attorney general. Republicans hold a 53-47 majority in the Senate and need just 51 votes to confirm Barr.
At the same time, the grand jury empaneled by Mueller recently had its term extended for up to six more months, suggesting a longer time frame is possible.
Giuliani said he had no idea when Mueller would complete his work, but he has grown increasingly impatient with the the pace of the probe.
He underlined that sentiment in the phone interview, saying that “someone should write an editorial” asserting that the most critical question now is whether Mueller “puts up or shuts up.”
A Washington Post report on Wednesday detailed how White House Counsel Pat Cipollone has hired 17 lawyers to beef up his team.
The report asserted that Cipollone and his colleagues were “gearing up to prevent President Trump’s confidential discussions with top advisers from being disclosed to House Democratic investigators and revealed in the special counsel’s long-awaited report.”
On the Manafort matter, Giuliani insisted that there was nothing criminal in the former campaign chairman’s actions, however ill-judged they might have been.
“There is no legal protection of polling data. You can give it to anyone. Campaigns leak polling data all the time,” he said.
He also stressed that the New York Times issued a correction to its report on the most recent revelations about Manafort.
The Times had initially reported that Manafort had wanted the polling data to be shared with Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch close to President Vladimir Putin. The Times later updated its report to say that Manafort was in fact seeking to share the information with two Ukrainian oligarchs.
Regarding Cohen’s testimony, which will take place amid intense media attention, Trump earlier on Thursday told reporters, “I’m not worried about it at all.”
Giuliani expressed a similar insouciance.
“I have no concerns about Cohen at all because I can prove with very little effort that he is a total, complete and absolute liar,” he said.
Trump and Giuliani in the past praised Cohen, even while he was under investigation. But both changed their tunes dramatically when Cohen announced he would cooperate with prosecutors.
Giuliani continues to assert Trump’s innocence of all suggestions of criminal wrongdoing.
The legal probes and the media coverage around them are unfair to the president, he insisted.
“This is a joke, a total mockery of the system that only happens because 75 percent of the press hates Trump,” he said.