President Trump’s personal lawyer on Monday walked back the timeline he had offered a day earlier on when negotiations ended with Russian officials about a proposed Trump Tower project in Moscow, calling his comments “hypothetical” and not intended to convey facts.
The latest statement from the lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, was described as a clarification of remarks he made to The New York Times in an interview on Sunday, as well as other remarks he made in interviews on Sunday television news shows.
Mr. Giuliani originally quoted Mr. Trump as telling him the negotiations over a Moscow skyscraper continued through “the day I won.” He also said that the president recalled “fleeting conversations” about the deal after the Trump Organization signed a letter of intent to pursue it.
The confusion centers on how long Mr. Trump may have known of — or was apprised of — discussions about the Moscow tower proposal, which were led by his former personal lawyer and fixer, Michael D. Cohen.
Mr. Giuliani’s timeline of negotiations for the skyscraper in Moscow is important because it shows that Mr. Trump’s company was involved in talks with an American adversary for a business deal through the general election, as he was demanding that President Barack Obama lift sanctions against Russia and urging its government to reveal emails from Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee.
The shifting accounts will inevitably raise questions about whether the president’s team is seeking to keep facts hidden after more than two years of investigations into him and his associates and ties to Russia.
On Sunday, Mr. Giuliani told The Times that Mr. Trump had said the discussions around the proposed tower were “going on from the day I announced to the day I won.” In television interviews the same day, he said that discussions about the tower may have continued up until November 2016 — the month Mr. Trump was elected president.
But on Monday, Mr. Giuliani, in a widely issued statement, said that he was making hypothetical remarks.
“My recent statements about discussions during the 2016 campaign between Michael Cohen and then-candidate Donald Trump about a potential Trump Moscow ‘project’ were hypothetical and not based on conversations I had with the president,” Mr. Giuliani said.
“My comments did not represent the actual timing or circumstances of any such discussions,” he added. “The point is that the proposal was in the earliest stage and did not advance beyond a free nonbinding letter of intent.”
Mr. Cohen late last year pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about the duration of the Moscow proposal; he had indicated initially that it stopped in January 2016.
It was not the first time that Mr. Giuliani has reversed himself in his comments about issues related to the probe of Russian election interference that is being led by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III.
Last week, Mr. Giuliani backtracked from another surprising assertion that left open the possibility that Trump campaign aides might have coordinated with Russia in its election interference in 2016.
“There was no collusion by President Trump in any way, shape or form,” Mr. Giuliani said in a statement on Thursday, reiterating the president’s longstanding defense against accusations that his campaign secretly coordinated with Moscow to help swing the election. “Likewise, I have no knowledge of any collusion by any of the thousands of people who worked on the campaign.”
He added, referring to discredited conspiracy theories that the president and his allies have long cited, “The only knowledge I have in this regard is the collusion of the Clinton campaign with Russia, which has so far been ignored.”
A day earlier, Mr. Giuliani stopped short of defending Trump campaign aides, drawing speculation that he might have inside knowledge of possible coordination with Russia.
“I never said there was no collusion between the campaign or between people in the campaign,” he told CNN. He added: “I said the president of the United States. There is not a single bit of evidence the president of the United States committed the only crime you could commit here, conspired with the Russians to hack” the Democratic National Committee.