Rudy Giuliani’s public comments about President Donald Trump and attorney Michael Cohen in the last 24 hours threw a wrench in Trump’s legal strategy, angering and confusing some members of the freshly formed team.
Some of the President’s legal advisers felt blindsided by Giuliani’s comments Wednesday night, according to multiple sources familiar with the team.
Following Giuliani’s performance with Sean Hannity on Fox News, the advisers feared he was winging it and not fully prepared, sources said. Even if Giuliani had devised a plan with the President, he had not run it by all other legal advisers, according to a source familiar with the President’s legal team.
Some advisers close to the President have speculated that Giuliani’s statements were planned solely with the President, and they see it as more evidence that Trump is running his legal strategy.
The team is “calling it one play at a time,” said a source familiar. “It’s as if the players are executing the plays on their own,” added the source, referring to Trump and Giuliani.
Giuliani told CNN on Thursday that he had spoken with the President both before and after his appearance with Hannity and it was coordinated carefully.
“You won’t see daylight between me and the President,” he said, pointing to Trump’s tweets in support of what he said and did.
Giuliani was brought aboard to publicize Trump’s message that he had not been treated fairly, that Hillary Clinton had received better treatment from investigators and that former FBI Director James Comey should not be believed. Giuliani also is tasked with negotiating with special counsel Robert Mueller’s team over an interview with the President.
But Giuliani upended the strategy Wednesday, sources said. His comments poured fuel on the Stormy Daniels case, which is a focus in the New York-based investigation of Cohen, complained one source.
“It’s a sideshow,” a source familiar with the legal team said. “Why now? They’re just getting in there to finish this thing. Why raise the question?”
The President has been fighting on two fronts: his connection to Cohen related to Daniels’ hush payment and his intention in firing Comey. Previously, Trump said he had no knowledge of the agreement with and payment to Daniels, and has given different answers about why he fired Comey last year.
Giuliani both provided new details and contradicted previous statements about the matters. He said Wednesday night that Trump had funneled money to Cohen to reimburse him for the Daniels payoff and that the President got rid of Comey to stop him from pursuing the Russia inquiry.
Lawyers who work on the team were surprised when Giuliani appeared to veer off course from the President’s previous statements about Trump’s legal issues, according to sources familiar with their thinking.
As the Giuliani whirlwind took over Wednesday night – the same day the reserved and experienced attorney Emmet Flood was announced as the newest White House lawyer managing the probe – Trump attorney Jay Sekulow was stepping back from the spotlight, according to a source familiar with the legal team. Over the past few weeks, he had been focused on bringing in new talent to the team.
CNN reported Wednesday night that another lawyer who has worked closely with Giuliani for years was considering coming aboard as an experienced prosecutor who could temper Giuliani. That lawyer, Marc Mukasey, said Thursday that he would not join the team.
Another pair on the team are Jane and Martin Raskin, well-respected white collar attorneys from Coral Gables, Florida. They’re experienced in defending clients in federal court, primarily in Florida, and lawyer-acquaintances of theirs said Wednesday that they would focus more on legal work instead of political messaging for Trump, in contrast to what Giuliani appears to be doing.
But as of Wednesday night, the lawyer team was frustrated and prevented from digging in on legal work and negotiations with Mueller’s team, with not all attorneys on the same page.
CNN’s Evan Perez, Dana Bash and Kara Scannell contributed to this report.