Rudy Giuliani declared on Sunday that President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort had been nearly “tortured” in jail as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, and referred to one of Mueller’s lead prosectutors as a “hit man” before walking both comments back.
The president’s personal lawyer made the stunning off-hand accusations in attempting to undermine the credibility of the team that investigated Trump for the last two years even as he credited Mueller for finding no conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia and his inconclusive ruling on obstruction of justice.
In an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union,” host Jake Tapper asked Giuliani to expand on why he believed the report was not credible.
“How about looking at it this way,” Giuliani responded. “People who were unfair to him, people who wrote an unfair report, people who came close to torturing people to get information and break them.”
When an astonished Tapper asked Giuliani to clarify himself, Giuliani pointed to the example of Manafort.
“Came close to torturing people?” Tapper asked.
“Yes, how about having Manafort in solitary confinement and questioning him 13 times?” Giuliani responded, before walking the statement back. “Maybe torture is too much.”
Manafort’s jail accommodations became a point of contention between his legal team and Mueller’s office last summer when his pre-trial release was revoked after he was charged with witness tampering while awaiting trial. In a court filing asking for his release, Manafort’s attorneys complained that he was being “housed in solitary confinement, locked in his cell for 24 hours per day (excluding visits from his attorneys)” in a facility nearly two hours away from his defense team. They argued that the conditions made it “impossible” for him to prepare for his two upcoming trials — one of which he later avoided by agreeing to cooperate with investigators.
Mueller’s team countered in a filing that Manafort was not, in fact, being confined to his cell.
“Among the unique privileges Manafort enjoys at the jail are a private, self-contained living unit, which is larger than other inmates’ units, his own bathroom and shower facility, his own personal telephone, and his own workspace to prepare for trial,” Mueller’s team said.
In more than one phone call, records show “Manafort has mentioned he is being treated like a ‘VIP,’” the filing says.
Giuliani on Sunday also criticized Mueller’s decision to hire Andrew Weissman as his deputy, pointing to several cases Weissman prosecuted that were later overturned, as well as his reputation for hardball tactics.
“Andrew Weissmann never should have been working for him because Andrew Weissmann is a hit man,” Giuliani said, clarifying that he meant “a hit man in terms of the way in which he operates.”
“He’s an aggressive prosecutor,” Tapper suggested, to which Giuliani answered, “yeah.”
“I will amend ‘hit man‘ if anybody is too sensitive. I mean, unethical prosecutor,” he said. His point, he continued, was that Mueller “put together a staff of Hillary loving, Trump-hating people who luckily —”
“Robert Mueller is very well-regarded,” Tapper interjected.
“Maybe he wasn’t paying attention,” Giuliani retorted.
Weissmann has become a target of those ensnared in the Russia investigation, as well as Trump’s allies, who have held him up as just one of Mueller’s deputies who, they claim, were biased against the president.
The president’s allies have been quick to point out that Weissmann was reported to be at Hillary Clinton’s election night party the night she lost the presidency to Trump.
Trump has lambasted him for what he claimed was a “horrible and vicious prosecutorial past.” Referencing the 2002 conviction of an accounting firm related to defunct energy giant Enron, arguing Weissmann “wrongly destroyed people’s lives, took down great companies, only to be overturned” unanimously by the Supreme Court, and he accused the Mueller prosecutor of doing the same now.
Manafort’s legal team also zeroed in on Weissmann, presenting him as a suspect for leaking grand jury information to the press while he worked at the Justice Department before Mueller was appointed. And Republicans in Congress two years ago ripped Weissmann for emails sent to then-acting Attorney General Sally Yates in which he praised her for instructing DOJ lawyers not to defend the president’s travel ban in court.
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