January 17, 2019 / 2:20 PM / 6 months ago

Trump lawyer Giuliani says does not know if campaign colluded with Russia

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who along with the president has repeatedly denied that any collusion occurred between Russia and other people in Trump’s 2016 campaign, retreated from those earlier broad statements, saying he had no idea whether any aides colluded with Moscow during that time.

FILE PHOTO: Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani speaks at the 2018 Iran Freedom Convention in Washington, U.S., May 5, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo

Trump and Giuliani have repeatedly and publicly said there was no collusion between Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia. But in a television interview with CNN on Wednesday night, Giuliani said, “I never said there was no collusion between the campaign, or between people in the campaign. I have no idea,” Giuliani told the cable news network.

“There is not a single bit of evidence the president of the United States committed the only crime you can commit here, conspired with the Russians to hack the DNC,” he said, referring to the Democratic National Committee, whose servers were hacked during the 2016 campaign and emails released publicly.

“The president did not collude with the Russians,” Giuliani told CNN.

Giuliani in an interview with Reuters on Thursday reaffirmed his comments to CNN, and noted that he only represented Trump.

“I know the president wasn’t involved in collusion. How would I know about anybody else? I wouldn’t know,” he said.

Several Democratic lawmakers called Giuliani’s comments disturbing and raised further concerns about Trump’s campaign conduct.

“He appears to acknowledge collusion between the campaign and the Russians,” the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat, Dick Durbin, told MSNBC in an interview on Thursday. “That’s quite an admission by the president’s own lawyer.”

U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded Moscow interfered in the 2016 election campaign to bolster Trump and hurt his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton. Federal prosecutors investigating the alleged meddling have charged more than 30 people as part of their probe, including more than two dozen Russian individuals and entities.

Several members of Trump’s campaign, including former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, have also either been charged or pleaded guilty as part of the probe being led by U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller or in related investigations.

Trump has frequently denied, in tweets and in public remarks, that any collusion with Russia occurred, calling the U.S. Special Counsel’s Office investigation a “witch hunt.” Russia has also denied any interference. Mueller’s team is also investigating any possible obstruction of justice by Trump.

Media reports over the weekend drew fresh scrutiny over Trump’s dealings with Russia.

The New York Times reported about an FBI investigation into whether the former U.S. reality television star and real estate developer was working on behalf of Russia. A Washington Post report raised questions about Trump’s handling of his meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin, including the confiscation of his interpreter’s notes.

Trump on Monday called the Post report false but did not offer any evidence to back up his claim, and said he never worked for Russia.

Congressional scrutiny this week of Trump’s nominee to lead the U.S. Department of Justice, William Barr, has also renewed concern over the ongoing Russia probe. As U.S. attorney general, Barr would oversee Mueller’s probe.

Barr told U.S. senators on Tuesday that he did not believe Mueller’s investigation was a witch hunt and that, if confirmed to lead the department, he would allow Mueller to complete his work.

Representatives for the White House did not respond to a request for comment on Giuliani’s remarks.

Additional reporting by Karen Freifeld; Writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by Steve Orlofsky

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