Trump lawyer attacks Mueller report, sees nothing wrong in taking Russian info

Jim MANNION
US President Donald Trump's lawyer attacks the Mueller report while the president spends Easter at Mar-a-Lago; he is seen here arriving at the Bethesda-by-the-Sea church for Easter services

Donald Trump's top lawyer on Sunday attacked "calumny, lies and distortions" in the Mueller investigation report, and said there is "nothing wrong" with taking hacked information from Russia.

Rudy Giuliani mounted a combative defense of the president in Sunday talk show appearances that took aim at Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigators, the evidence they amassed and the witnesses they cited.

The former New York mayor heaped special scorn on Senator Mitt Romney, a former Republican presidential candidate who said Friday he was "sickened" by the report's findings and "appalled" that Trump's election campaign "welcomed help from Russia."

"What a hypocrite. What a hypocrite. Any candidate in the whole world in America would take information," Giuliani said of Romney on CNN's "State of the Union."

He was referring to Democratic emails that were hacked by Russian operatives and disseminated by WikiLeaks in 2016 to hurt Trump presidential rival Hillary Clinton.

"Who says it's even illegal?" Giuliani added. "Does the information turn out to be false, by the way? The information that was gleaned and disseminated, every newspaper printed it."

Trump publicly encouraged Russia and WikiLeaks while top campaign officials, including his son and son-in-law, met in Trump Tower with a Russian promising dirt on Clinton.

"There is nothing wrong with taking information from the Russians. It depends on where it came from," Giuliani said, adding that as a lawyer he would have advised against it.

"This didn't become an international scandal because of immorality. It became an international scandal because the president was accused of violating the law falsely," he said.

His comments echoed Trump, who mocked Romney on Twitter Sunday, after lashing out Friday at the "bullshit" Mueller report. The president was in Palm Beach, Florida where he attended Easter services.

- Democrats mull impeachment -

The special counsel's 22-month-long investigation concluded that Trump and his team did not collude with the Russian effort to sway the elections in his favor.

But it detailed 10 episodes of potential obstruction by Trump, including his firing of FBI director James Comey and demands that Mueller himself be removed.

The special counsel declined to bring charges, however, and Attorney General Bill Barr, a Trump appointee, said that cleared the president.

Democrats, who have a majority in the House of Representatives, now are considering whether to move to impeach the president, an effort likely to fail because Republicans control the Senate.

"We will have to decide, do we nonetheless go through an impeachment -- because to do otherwise would signal that somehow this president's conduct is okay, that future presidents can engage in this kind of corruption without consequence -- or do we decide that we are better off doing oversight ... rather than a formal impeachment?" Representative Adam Schiff, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, said on "Fox News Sunday."

"That's going to be a very consequential decision" and one that would be made "over the next couple weeks," he said.

Representative Jerry Nadler, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, equivocated when asked on NBC about impeachment. "We may get to that, we may not," he said, adding that lawmakers needed first to "go through all the evidence."

So far, only two of the 18 declared Democratic presidential candidates -- Senator Elizabeth Warren and former Obama cabinet member Julian Castro -- have called for impeachment.

- On the attack -

The White House's strategy, meanwhile, was on bristling display in Giuliani's talk show appearances: attack the investigators as biased and the witness testimony as self-serving and untruthful.

Speaking on "Fox News Sunday," Giuliani called the report "a prosecutor's version of what happened."

"It's two or three pages of calumny, lies and distortion," he said. "Half of it is not true."

Some of the most damaging episodes detailed in the report came from former White House counsel Don McGahn, who described to investigators Trump's escalating demands that Mueller be removed.

McGahn refused to do so and threatened to resign but was talked out of it.

"I'm telling you he's confused. He gave three different versions," Giuliani said on CNN.

The White House has prepared a rebuttal of the Mueller report but has yet to release it.

"We're ready to put it out when we have to," the president's lawyer said.