Erin Schaff for The New York Times
WASHINGTON — President Trump was involved in discussions to build a skyscraper in Moscow throughout the entire 2016 presidential campaign, his personal lawyer said on Sunday, a longer and more significant role for Mr. Trump than he had previously acknowledged.
The comments by his lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani indicated that Mr. Trump’s efforts to complete a business deal in Russia waned only after Americans cast ballots in the presidential election.
The new timetable means that Mr. Trump was seeking a deal at the time he was calling for an end to economic sanctions against Russia imposed by the Obama administration. He was seeking a deal when he gave interviews questioning the legitimacy of NATO, a favorite talking point of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. And he was seeking a deal when, in July 2016, he called on Russia to release hacked Democratic emails that Mr. Putin’s government was rumored at the time to have stolen.
The Trump Tower Moscow discussions were “going on from the day I announced to the day I won,” Mr. Giuliani quoted Mr. Trump as saying during an interview with The New York Times. It was one of a flurry of interviews Mr. Giuliani did on Sunday amid fallout from a disputed report by BuzzFeed News that President Trump had personally directed his former lawyer and fixer, Michael D. Cohen, to lie to Congress about the negotiations over the skyscraper.
Mr. Giuliani denied that claim, and a spokesman for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, called BuzzFeed’s report “inaccurate” in a rare statement.
Mr. Giuliani also acknowledged that Mr. Trump might have talked to Mr. Cohen before his congressional testimony but he said his client had never instructed Mr. Cohen to lie. Mr. Trump acknowledged discussing the Moscow project with Mr. Cohen in written responses that the president gave Mr. Mueller’s investigators days before they revealed that Mr. Cohen had pleaded guilty to lying to Congress.
“There was no question that he was asked by the special counsel a question that said, ‘Did you talk to him before he testified?’” Mr. Giuliani said.
“There were questions like, ‘Did you talk about the Moscow project with Michael Cohen?’ to which we answered yes.”
Later in the day, Mr. Giuliani said he was merely allowing for the possibility that the president and Mr. Cohen could have discussed the Moscow project through the election but that no notes or call logs indicated specific conversations about Russia.
“We’re at Cohen’s mercy for the dates,” Mr. Giuliani said, adding that the president “doesn’t remember the dates. He does remember conversations about Moscow. He does remember the letter of intent. He does remember, after that, fleeting conversations.”
He added that he was trying to keep Mr. Trump from legal exposure if prosecutors uncover evidence of a conversation that the president has said he does not recall.
Like so many other threads of the Russia saga, the story that the president’s aides have told about the Trump Tower Moscow negotiations has changed repeatedly. First, they said that the discussions never moved beyond their infancy, barely involved Mr. Trump, and ended well before the Republican primaries. Then, when Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty in November to lying to Congress about the Tower negotiations, the special counsel’s office revealed they extended at least until the middle of…