Last month, during a brief chat with reporters on Air Force One, Donald Trump said he did not know about the $130,000 hush-money payment to Stormy Daniels shortly before Election Day 2016. He added soon after that he also didn’t know where his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, received the money to pay the porn star.
Rudy Giuliani, a recent addition to the president’s legal defense team, shed some additional light on the subject last night, and in the process, made Trump’s life vastly more difficult.
President Donald Trump repaid his attorney Michael Cohen the $130,000 Cohen paid porn star Stormy Daniels shortly before the 2016 election for her silence about her alleged affair with Trump in 2006, the president’s new lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani, said Wednesday night.
Appearing on Fox News Channel’s “Hannity,” Giuliani, the former mayor of New York and former U.S. attorney for Manhattan whom Trump hired to join his personal legal team last month, revealed for the first time that Trump had paid back the money to Cohen, who had said previously that he had paid Daniels with his own funds and without Trump’s knowledge.
Giuliani prefaced his comments by telling the Fox News host, “I’m giving you a fact now that you don’t know.” The presidential lawyer then explained that Trump didn’t know all of the specific details of the payoff to the adult-film actress, “but he did know about the general arrangement.”
Giuliani went on to say, “[T]he president reimbursed that over the period of several months.”
He stressed that no campaign funds were used in the transaction – a point Trump also emphasized in a trio of tweets this morning that he obviously did not write – which in Giuliani’s mind, means the hush-money payoff was “perfectly legal” and couldn’t be a campaign-finance violation.
After the Fox News appearance, Giuliani spoke to the New York Times, adding that Trump reimbursed Cohen “out of his personal family account” in $35,000 monthly increments. In all, Cohen reportedly received $460,000 or $470,000.
Giuliani also talked to the Washington Post, and said he’d spoken to the president about last night’s comments and Trump was “very pleased.”
He shouldn’t be. For one thing, Giuliani’s on-air comments suggest the president lied to the public about buying a porn star’s silence during his campaign. (It’s possible, of course, that the lawyer is lying, but the former mayor doesn’t have an incentive to go on national television and make false claims about the conduct of his own client.)
For another, Giuliani’s understanding of campaign-finance law is alarmingly limited: he believes that if campaign money wasn’t used to pay off Stormy Daniels, the hush money was necessarily legal, but that’s plainly inaccurate.
A White House spokesperson added last night, “What I can tell you in this instance is, it is ongoing (litigation), we have nothing to say about it.” Trump World will probably have to think of something fairly soon.
As for the always quotable Michael Avenatti, Daniels’ attorney, he spoke to MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell last night, and responded to Giuliani’s comments this way: “I am absolutely speechless at this revelation…. The American people have been lied to about this agreement, about the $130,000.” Avenatti added that he expects “serious charges” in this case.