In a remarkable interview with CNN's Jake Tapper today, the president's lawyer Rudy Giuliani suggested it was possible — and would be "perfectly normal" — that Trump talked to Michael Cohen before he testified about him to Congress. Giuliani added he didn't know if Trump and Cohen had such a conversation.

Why it matters: It's not "perfectly normal" for subjects of or witnesses in a Congressional investigation to discuss testimony directly with each other. If witnesses or subjects are talking to each other, the government can always claim one is trying to influence the others' testimony. That's why lawyers counsel against doing it.

  • But the act itself is not illegal. "Fundamentally, what is important is what Trump said to Cohen," said Kathy Ruemmler, who served as White House counsel to President Obama. "The fact that they may have discussed it is bad practice, but not in and of itself problematic."

Top Washington criminal defense lawyers, both Democrats and Republicans, told me they couldn't understand what Giuliani was trying to achieve with his TV appearance.

  • "Any defense lawyer would advise their client in an investigation not to discuss testimony with other people involved in the investigation in order to avoid the risk of obstruction or suborning perjury charges," said a Republican attorney who spoke on condition of anonymity because he works with the Trump administration and doesn't want to offend them.
  • "Rudy is the gift that keeps on creating issues that do not otherwise exist. He should have taken the Mueller statement [denying the BuzzFeed story], embraced it and not said another word," said a prominent criminal defense lawyer, who requested not to be identified because he's active in Robert Mueller's investigation.

The White House referred questions to outside counsel.

  • So I texted Giuliani asking if he really thought it would be perfectly normal for Trump to discuss Cohen's testimony with him.

Giuliani texted back: "If there is a joint defense agreement it is safe to do it through your lawyers. I can't believe your [sic] still pursuing this after the malicious BuzzFeed blowup. President has not advised anyone to do anything but tell the truth as that [sic] recall it ...

  • "Cohen's lawyers reviewed his testimony and said it was truthful. ... Their lawyers had a joint defense agreement."
  • A joint defense agreement lets lawyers talk to one another — not their clients — and only while the interests of the clients are aligned, former senior DOJ official Chuck Rosenberg told me. "Once those interests diverge — as they would when Mr. Cohen pled guilty — the agreement typically ends."

The bottom line: I tried to clarify this with Giuliani. "You said to Tapper it would be perfectly normal for Trump to discuss testimony with Cohen. Now you're saying only through lawyers. Which is it?"

  • By deadline, Giuliani had not replied.

Go deeper: The New York Times' Maggie Haberman and Michael Schmidt published another interview with Giuliani on Sunday. In it, Giuliani indicated Trump and Cohen's conversations about the Trump Tower project in Moscow could have continued months longer than previously known.

Go deeper

TikTok's content-moderation time bomb

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

When the dust finally clears from the fight over TikTok, whoever winds up running the burgeoning short-video-sharing service is likely to face a world of trouble trying to manage speech on it.

Why it matters: Facebook’s story already shows us how much can go wrong when online platforms beloved by passionate young users turn into public squares.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
40 mins ago - Energy & Environment

Zooming in on China's new energy plan

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Major climate news arrived on Tuesday when Chinese President Xi Jinping said China would aim for "carbon neutrality" by 2060 and a CO2 emissions peak before 2030.

Why it matters: China is by far the world's largest greenhouse gas emitter. So its success or failure at reining in planet-warming gases affects everyone's future.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 9 a.m. ET: 31,647,930 — Total deaths: 971,711 Total recoveries: 21,776,599Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 9 a.m. ET: 6,897,661 — Total deaths: 200,818 — Total recoveries: 2,646,959 — Total tests: 96,612,436Map.
  3. Health: Hospitals want more time to repay pandemic loans — Supply shortages continue to plague testing.
  4. Business: The high-wage jobs aren't coming back
  5. Vaccines: Johnson & Johnson begins large phase 3 trial — The FDA plans to toughen standards.
  6. Sports: Less travel is causing the NBA to see better basketball.

Get Axios AM in your inbox

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!