President Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani said on Thursday he doubted the veracity of a bombshell NBC News report from earlier in the day that federal authorities wiretapped the president’s longtime counsel, Michael Cohen.
“Us lawyers have talked about it, we don’t believe it’s true,” Giuliani told The Daily Beast. “We think it’s going to turn out to be untrue because it would be totally illegal. You can’t wiretap a lawyer, you certainly can’t wiretap his client who’s not involved in the investigation. No one has suggested that Trump was involved in that investigation. So they’re going to wiretap the lawyer, his client, and his client the president of the United States? I don’t think so, not if they want to stay out of jail. Disclosing a wiretap is a federal felony. I never took ’em home when I was a U.S. attorney.”
Giuliani said that he found out about the wiretap news from NBC News’ report, which cited “two people with knowledge of the legal proceedings,” and not from Cohen himself. Later on Thursday, NBC corrected its report to say that while the feds were able to monitor Cohen’s calls they were not listening in on them.
Giuliani said he believed someone in the Justice Department was behind the initial leak.
“Nobody else would know about it,” Giuliani said. “Cohen didn’t know about it, so it has to be the FBI, the independent counsel, or the Justice Department.
“Anybody who says that I’m exaggerating when I say that this is an out-of-control investigation and they’re acting like storm troopers—give me a break, baby! They prove it every day.”
Though Giuliani insisted otherwise, lawyers can, in fact, be wiretapped under special circumstances, according to legal experts.
“There are limitations on intercepting attorney-client conversations and if you do intercept one, what they’re supposed to do is segregate that conversation and present it to the judge,” Ken White, a former federal prosecutor, told The Daily Beast. White said the same policy doesn’t strictly ban the wiretapping of lawyers.
“That sort of thing happens all the time if you’re doing mob wiretaps,” he said. “That would be the classic type of scenario, when they’re calling their lawyer or their fixer or whatever. But there’s not an absolute prohibition on wiretapping a lawyer.”
Renato Mariotti, another former federal prosecutor, said it’s “highly unusual” for the feds to wiretap lawyers.
“I don’t personally recall a time it was done,” he said. “I was a federal prosecutor for over nine years in Chicago, which is one of the biggest U.S. attorneys offices in the country, and I don’t personally know of a time when an attorney’s phone was wiretapped. But there’s no reason why it can’t be.”
Giuliani’s comments are the latest in a media blitz that has upended previous Trump-world talking points and caused ripple effects across a variety of legal and political fronts. Only recently added to Trump’s legal team, the former New York City mayor said that the Cohen news makes him even more hesitant to let the president sit down for an interview with special counsel Robert Mueller for his separate probe into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election.
“Right now, the odds are against it,” he said. “Look at all of the bad faith we’re seeing here. And whether this wiretap story is true or not true, it’s bad faith to leak it. We should find out about this with a notification from the Justice Department, they’re wiretapping the president of the United States, they’re wiretapping a man talking to his lawyer and then they want us to cooperate? We’re not suckers.”
As of 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, Giuliani said he had yet to speak with Mueller’s team about the wiretapping news.
This piece has been updated with additional reporting.