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BREAKING NEWS

Rudy Giuliani claims Michael Cohen hush payments, possible Russia collusion 'not a crime'

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Image: Rudolph Giuliani
Rudolph Giuliani delivers a speech during the 2018 Iran Uprising Summit in Manhattan on Sept. 22, 2018. -
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Amr Alfiky Reuters file
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Hush money during the campaign? "Collusion" with Russia? No crimes here, President Donald Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani asserted in two contentious Sunday show interviews.

Giuliani was peppered with questions during interviews with George Stephanopoulos on ABC's "This Week" and Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday" about the hush payments to women that contributed to former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen's three year prison sentence, which he received on Wednesday, and special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

"Even if" Cohen's story "were true, it's not a crime," Giuliani told Wallace.

In both interviews, Giuliani was asked to respond to Cohen's Friday interview with Stephanopoulos on "Good Morning America."

"Pathetic. The man is pathetic," Giuliani told Stephanopoulos in response to Cohen's interview. "That was a lawyer you were interviewing. ... He's the guy you depend on to determine whether or not you should do it this way or that way."

Cohen said in that interview he knew making the hush payments was wrong and that no one believes Trump when he says he did not direct Cohen to break the law.

"Nothing at the Trump Organization was ever done unless it was run through Mr. Trump," Cohen said. "He directed me, as I said in my allocution and I said as well in the plea, he directed me to make the payments, he directed me to become involved in these matters."

Cohen, who claimed to have lied to protect Trump, said people should believe him now because Mueller "stated emphatically that the information that I gave to them is credible and helpful."

Porn star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal were paid so they wouldn't speak out about their allegations of a decade-old affair with Trump — affairs he denies. Both Cohen and American Media Inc.— which purchased McDougal's story and then did not publish it — told federal prosecutors the payments were made for the purpose of benefiting Trump's candidacy.

In his interviews, Giuliani repeatedly questioned Cohen's credibility. "I think I know what the truth is, but unless you're God ... you will never know what the truth is," he said, adding that Cohen "lies to fit the situation he's in."

Giuliani claimed there was "no way" prosecutors could back up Cohen's claims, insisting they didn't have corroborating evidence.

Discussing the legality of the payments to Daniels, Giuliani said the case involving former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, who was acquitted in a similar hush money situation, showed that no crime was committed by Cohen and Trump. The judge in that case, as legal experts have pointed out, ruled that a payment to cover up an affair counts as a campaign contribution if "one of" the reasons the expenditure was made is to influence an election.

But Giuliani said the Edwards case showed that such a payment would have to be the "sole" purpose in order for the payment to be illegal. "If there's another purpose, there is no crime," he said.

Giuliani also said on ABC that if the payment was not directly a "campaign expense, it can't be a campaign contribution."

On Fox, Wallace and Giuliani engaged in an extended back and forth on Trump's credibility, with Wallace pointing out that Trump's story on the payments has changed dramatically over the past few months. When he first answered questions on the Daniels payment, for example, Trump told reporters he did not know about it and that they'd have to ask Cohen about the subject.

Giuliani told Wallace that the changing story was simply the result of Trump being very busy and not having properly remembered what happened. Regardless of what Trump knew, Giuliani added, "it's not illegal."

The president's attorney additionally faced questions on Muller's investigation, which also focuses on whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russian officials.

Stephanopoulos asked Giuliani specifically about longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone, who's found himself in the special counsel's cross-hairs. The ABC host asked if Stone ever gave Trump "a heads up on WikiLeaks leaks concerning Hillary Clinton and the DNC?"

"No he didn't," Giuliani said, to which Stephanopoulos asked, "Not at all?"

"I don't believe so," Giuliani said before taking a long pause. "But again, if Roger Stone gave anybody a heads up about WikiLeaks leaks, that's not a crime. It'd be like giving him a heads up that The Times is about to print something."