Paul Manafort’s lawyers shared confidential information about Robert Mueller’s investigation with President Trump’s legal team, Rudy Giuliani said Thursday — a move that experts say could be illegal.
The former New York City mayor defended the exchange, saying it was protected by a joint defense agreement between Manafort and Trump.
“Of course there was (information sharing,) but not in great detail,” Giuliani told the Daily News.
Giuliani argued that the defense contract between Trump and Manafort make all conversations between their lawyers covered by the so-called attorney-client privilege.
Giuliani, the former federal prosecutor known for putting mobsters behind bars, said he would “love” to battle anyone in court over the matter and disputed any argument to the contrary as anti-Trump bile perpetuated by the special counsel’s office.
“They should be ashamed of themselves,” Giuliani said of Mueller’s investigators. “God damn it, the only reason this is happening is that there’s different rules if you are Donald Trump.”
Experts were stunned by Giuliani’s argument and said the dissemination of confidential information about the Mueller probe is highly unethical at best and criminal at worst.
The privileges ensured by joint defense agreements are only applicable when two parties have common legal interests and are subjects of the same criminal investigation.
When Manafort copped a plea deal with Mueller in September, those protections were voided, said Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor in Illinois, since as part of that agreement he agreed to cooperate “fully, truthfully, completely and forthrightly” with the special counsel investigation into Russian election interference.
“Once that happened, Manafort no longer had a common interest with Trump, since Trump himself is a subject of Mueller’s investigation,” Mariotti said. “You can even go further and say that Manafort actually has an opposite interest to Trump.”
As the exchanges between Manafort’s team and Trump’s lawyers aren’t privileged, it is now legally feasible for Mueller to demand testimony about the matter and even issue subpoenas to Giuliani and Manafort attorney Kevin Downing, according to experts.
A spokesman for the special counsel declined to comment.
Whether the exchanges amounted to criminal behavior is a matter of intent and the specifics of what was shared, Mariotti said.
“If they did this with the intent to undermine Mueller’s investigation, that could amount to a scheme to obstruct justice,” Mariotti said.