On the morning of May 3rd, President Trump issued a series of tweets clarifying remarks made by his newly hired lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, regarding a payment of $130,000 made to adult film star Stormy Daniels by former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen. Giuliani revealed the information that Trump had reimbursed the payment to Cohen in an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity.
Giuliani told Sean Hannity during his May 2nd interview that in regards to Trump “paying some Stormy Daniels woman one hundred and thirty thousand,” the arrangement “is going to turn out to be perfectly legal. That money was not campaign money. Sorry, I’m giving you a fact now that you don’t know. It’s not campaign money. No campaign finance violation.” Hannity then questioned whether the payment was funneled through Cohen’s law firm. Giuliani replied, “Funneled through the law firm, and then the president repaid it.”
This revelation from Giuliani, who only recently joined Trump’s legal team in the wake of Robert Meuller’s investigation, directly contradicts an answer given to the press from President Trump aboard Air Force One on April 5th. When questioned by a reporter on board whether he knew about the payment, President Trump simply responded “No.” The same reporter followed up, asking “Then why did Michael Cohen make [the payment], if there was no truth to her allegations?” Trump then responded saying “You’ll have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael’s my attorney, and you’ll have to ask Michael.” Yet another reporter asked Trump, “Do you know where he got the money to make that payment?” To which the president responded, “No. I don’t know.” Trump ignored a final question from a reporter asking if he had set up a fund for Cohen to pull funds from.
The series of tweets sent out by President Trump on May 3rd attempted to clear up the discrepancy between the president’s statements and those made by Rudy Giuliani on Fox News. Trump claimed in his tweets that Cohen “received a monthly retainer, not from the campaign and having nothing to do with the campaign, from which he entered into, through reimbursement, a private contract between two parties, known as a non-disclosure agreement, or NDA.” He continued to say that these agreements were “very common among celebrities and people of wealth.”
On May 4th, President Trump tried to clarify Giuliani’s remarks to reporters outside the White House. “Rudy is a great guy but he just started a day ago,” Trump said, although according to a report in Vanity Fair, Giuliani actually started two weeks ago. “He’ll get his facts straight.” Rudy Giuliani then released a three-point statement the same day. While the third point in the statement regarded the firing of James Comey, it was the first and second points that most directly addressed the Stormy Daniels payment. “First: There is no campaign violation. The payment was made to resolve a personal and false allegation to protect the President’s family. It would have been done in any event, whether he was a candidate or not,” the statement read. The second point reads: “My references to timing were not describing my understanding of the President’s knowledge, but instead, my understanding of these matters.” This appeared to be Giuliani’s attempt at shifting the burden of knowledge from the president to himself.
Following the release of the statement, however, Rudy Giuliani continued to appear in televised interviews over the weekend. The first was with Jeanine Pirro on Fox News on May 5th. Giuliani told Pirro: “The President of the United States did not violate campaign finance law,” when he repaid Cohen. Giuliani then added, “Even if it was a campaign donation, the President reimbursed it fully with the $35,000 a month…I’m an expert on campaign finance law…there’s no way this is a campaign finance violation…nor was it a loan.” On May 6th, Giuliani appeared on ABC’s This Week, where he was interviewed by George Stephanopoulos. When asked by Stephanopoulos if Trump had made similar payments to other women, Giuliani responded, “I’d have no knowledge of that, uh, but I would, I would, I would think if it were necessary, yes. [Cohen] made payments for the president, or he conducted business for the president. Which means he had legal fees, money laid out, and expenditures. Which I have on my bills to my clients.” Michael Avenatti, the lawyer representing Stormy Daniels, appeared on the program after Giuliani, and called the interview “one of the worst TV appearances by any attorney on behalf of a client in modern times.” He added, “I think it is obvious, George, to the American people that this is a cover-up, that they are making it up as they go along. They don’t know what to say because they have lost track of the truth.”
According to a report from the Associated Press, Trump has grown irritated by Giuliani’s continued media gaffes. Though he originally celebrated hiring “America’s [expletive] mayor” as legal counsel, according to one anonymous source, two other unnamed sources with access to the president told AP that Trump has considered barring Rudy Giuliani from any further interviews. President Trump has allegedly been angered by the fact that the Stormy Daniels story has been extended through Giuliani’s television appearances.
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