In his first public comment about the Stormy Daniels hush payment, President Trump pretended he knew nothing about it.
Pressed on why his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, would, just before the 2016 election, make a $130,000 hush payment to Daniels — a woman who claims to have had an affair with Trump — Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One, “You’ll have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney. You’ll have to ask Michael.”
On March 7, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders specifically denied Trump had any knowledge about the payments.
Yeah, I’ve had conversations with the President about this…There was no knowledge of any payments from the president and he’s denied all of these allegations.
During his first interview as a member of Trump’s legal team, Rudy Giuliani told a very different story about the payment.
Giuliani said that Trump personally reimbursed Cohen for the “perfectly legal” payment, but downplayed how unusual that would be.
“That money was not campaign money,” Giuliani said. “No campaign finance violation… Funneled it through a law firm, and then the president repaid it.”
Giuliani’s revelation surprised Hannity.
“Everybody was nervous about this from the very beginning, I wasn’t,” Giuliani said. “I knew how much money Donald Trump put into that campaign. I said, ‘$130,000? You can do a couple of checks for $130,000.'”
Hannity then asked Giuliani if Trump knew about the circumstances surrounding the payment.
“He did know about the general arrangement,” Giuliani said. “Michael would take care of things like this, like I take care of things like this for my clients. I don’t burden them with every single thing that comes along. These are busy people.”
Later, Giuliani characterized Cohen’s payment to Daniels as “a very regular thing for lawyers to do.”
“That was money that was paid by his lawyer, the president reimbursed that over the period of several months,” he said, adding that he had no reason to disbelieve the story Cohen has told about how he used his own funds for the payment.
Cohen has said he made the payment independently, without Trump’s knowledge and without looping in the Trump Organization — a move that would be unusual and unethical, as lawyers don’t generally make payments on behalf of clients without their knowledge.
Giuliani’s disclosure also positions the Cohen payment as a loan, potentially creating legal liability for Trump, who would be required to have reported such a loan on his presidential financial disclosures.
Whoa, Rudy may just have proven our @CREWcrew complaint that Trump broke the law by failing to disclose the loan from Cohen on his federal presidential financial disclosures. Those are filed under criminal penalty for false statements, 18 USC 1001. https://t.co/1W1BP4RvIT
— Norm Eisen (@NormEisen) May 3, 2018
It’s unclear why Giuliani, who is representing Trump in his dealings with special counsel Robert Mueller, spoke out about the Daniels matter in the first place. Trump has separate lawyers representing him in the Daniels litigation.
At no point during the interview did Hannity note that he has a conflict of interest when discussing Cohen, as Cohen has done legal work for him in the past.
UPDATE (11:22 PM): The White House responds:
"We have nothing to say about it" @hogangidley45 says on Fox in response to Rudy bombshell. Adds: "I'm not an attorney, I just work at the White House."
— Sarah Boxer (@Sarah_Boxer) May 3, 2018