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Former U.S. Prosecutor On Trump, Giuliani And Mueller


Unemployment below 4 percent. A warm welcome from the NRA convention in Dallas last week should have been a week of good news for the president but not so much for President Trump. Questions continue surrounding a payoff made on Trump's behalf to adult film actress Stormy Daniels, who, by the way, made a surprise appearance on SNL last night. That's the kind of world we're in now. The president, his previous lawyer, Michael Cohen, and his new lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, have given vastly different explanations for that payoff. And that's raised some new legal questions. To talk about this, I'm joined by Andrew McCarthy. He's a former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. Welcome.

ANDREW MCCARTHY: Good morning.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Mr. McCarthy, I know you have a relationship with Mr. Giuliani. I believe he hired you for the Southern District many years ago?

MCCARTHY: He did. 19 - I think it was 1984.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: OK. So you've known him for a long time. It seems like he may have hurt the president more than he's helped this week. What's your view?

MCCARTHY: Yeah. Well, my view is that anything that raises the specter of the campaign finance issue and the Cohen matter, which I thought, actually, the Trump people had succeeded in putting some distance between the White House and Cohen once the - once that investigation went to Manhattan, and the deputy attorney general said that Trump was not a target in it. I thought they had kind of succeeded in keeping that away from the White House. And it seems like Rudy brought it back front and center last week.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Right. Giuliani said over the weekend, quote, "I'm not aware of all the facts yet," and tried to walk back his earlier comments. That doesn't seem like it's the most cautious approach for a personal lawyer for the president.

MCCARTHY: You mean you think you should know the facts before you go out speaking about them?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I'm just venturing a guess that that's...

MCCARTHY: (Laughter).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: ...Possibly the thing that should happen if you are indeed a lawyer for the president of the United States.

MCCARTHY: Yeah. Well...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: But I'd like your view.

MCCARTHY: I don't mean to poke fun at it. I actually think the miscalculation here isn't so much not knowing all the facts as not prioritizing the problems correctly. To my mind, the legal problem with the campaign finance issue is small potatoes compared to the political problem that arises out of having to talk about this whole Stormy Daniels issue, you know, the underlying conduct, you know, the nonplausible explanations that, you know, the president didn't know about the payment and the false statements that apparently were given by the president and by his lawyer about what the president's knowledge was. I just don't see that there's any good for Trump in talking about this. And by contrast, even if Giuliani has a - you know, a magical explanation that makes the campaign finance issue go away, which I really don't think he does, the campaign finance thing is just not that big of a deal. Much bigger offenses have been settled by fine. So I've always thought from the beginning that their best move on this issue is basically not to fight it and not to claim innocence but just to claim mitigation...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Right. Just...

MCCARTHY: ...And try to move on.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Just to basically admit it and just hope that it doesn't become a bigger deal than it is.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: It seems that that boat has sailed now. I'd like to just briefly - we don't have much time left - ask you about the other investigation, which is the Mueller investigation. You do not believe that, in the end, that's a real threat to the president.

MCCARTHY: Well, I think - you know, look. They can make it into a threat, I suppose. But I think based on what we know at the moment, there doesn't seem to be an actionable case as far as what they've called collusion is concerned. What prosecutors care about, of course, is conspiracy. It doesn't look like they have that. I think there are significant legal defenses to any claim of obstruction. So I think that unless they do something like go into an interview and say something that Mueller can turn into a false statement - and let's remember, he's prosecuted four people so far for making false statements in their interviews - I think he's probably all right.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Thank you very much. Andrew McCarthy, a contributing editor for the conservative National Review. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.