On the heels of Rudy Giuliani’s string of disastrous interviews with cable and print outlets, President Trump sought to do some damage control, and in the process threw his new attorney under the bus.
During two brief question-and-answer sessions with reporters on Friday morning, Trump didn’t try to explain the disconnect between Giuliani’s claim that Trump reimbursed Michael Cohen for a hush payment made just before the 2016 election to a woman who says she had an affair with Trump, and Trump’s own previous denial that he knew anything about the payment. Instead, Trump repeatedly asserted that Giuliani simply didn’t know what he was talking about.
“He started yesterday. He will get his facts straight,” Trump said while leaving the White House on his way to the NRA convention in Texas. “Virtually everything that’s been said has been said incorrectly.”
Later, while boarding Air Force One, Trump was asked why he’s changed his story about the Daniels payment. He lashed out at a reporter for asking the question — “I didn’t change any story. I’m telling you this country is growing so fast and to be bringing up that kind of crap and witch hunt all the time…that’s all you want to talk about” — before again suggesting that Giuliani is ignorant of the facts.
“When Rudy made the statement, he had just started and wasn’t totally familiar with everything. And Rudy, we love Rudy, he is a special guy. What he really understands is this is a witch hunt,” Trump said.
Giuliani claims to be better informed than Trump. In a phone interview with NBC, he said there are documents proving that Trump reimbursed Cohen for the payment, which may have violated federal law.
“I don’t think the president realized he paid him [Cohen] back for that specific thing until we [his legal team] made him aware of the paperwork,” Giuliani said.
Giuliani told NBC that the president responded to the news by saying, “‘Oh my goodness, I guess that’s what it was for.'”
When asked how many payments Trump had made, Giuliani told NBC News the president started paying Cohen back in January 2017 and that altogether there were “about 12 installments of $35,000 each.”
The money, totaling an estimated $420,000, also covered other expenses and fees for Cohen, Giuliani said, but he was unable to provide details.
While Trump is now trying to dismiss Giuliani’s explanation of the Daniels payment, Giuliani told The Washington Post that Trump was “very pleased” with his first interview as the president’s attorney on Hannity.
“He felt that somebody finally stood up and defended him, particularly with how this investigation is going,” Giuliani said.
UPDATE (5/4, 2:05 p.m.): Following the president’s remarks, Giuliani told reporters he will issue a “correction” to comments he made during his round of media interview.
Rudy Giuliani confirms he will be issuing a new statement. "It's a question of misinterpretation," he says. Of the president: "He says he loves me."
— Josh Dawsey (@jdawsey1) May 4, 2018
In a statement issued Friday afternoon, Giuliani didn’t take issue with any of the facts of the matter. He acknowledged that the hush payment to Daniels took place and didn’t deny that Trump reimbursed Cohen.
But Giuliani pointed out that Trump still denies having an affair with Daniels, and also emphasized that Trump’s payment was not meant to boost his chances of winning the election — something he equivocated about in earlier interviews.
“First: There is no campaign violation. The payment was made to resolve a personal and false allegation in order to protect the President’s family. It would have been done in any event, whether he was a candidate or not,” Giuliani said.
“Second: My references to timing were not describing my understanding of the President’s knowledge, but instead my understanding of these matters.”
— ABC News (@ABC) May 4, 2018
“Third: It is undisputed that the President’s dismissal of former Director Comey — an inferior executive officer — was clearly within his Article II power. Recent revelations about former Director Comey further confirm the wisdom of the President’s decision, which was plainly in the best interests of our nation.”