“Nobody got killed, nobody got robbed … This was not a big crime,” Giuliani told The Daily Beast. “I think in two weeks they’ll start with parking tickets that haven’t been paid.”
Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison on Wednesday for violating campaign finance law by paying off two women who said they had affairs with Trump. The payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal, made to prevent damage to Trump’s 2016 presidential bid, far exceeded federal limits on campaign contributions.
Trump and his allies’ explanations for the payments have slowly unraveled over time, beginning with the January denial of the Daniels payment. In February, Cohen admitted to paying Daniels but said Trump was in the dark. Trump reiterated that point in April, but Giuliani in May acknowledged that Trump was aware of the “general arrangement.” However, the former New York City mayor said the transaction was “perfectly legal.”
It’s not the first time that Giuliani has attempted to downplay Trump’s alleged misdoings by comparing them to more serious crimes. In a November discussion about Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, he told HuffPost’s S.V. Date that “we’re talking about white-collar crime. Nobody’s dying, nobody’s being abused, nobody’s being sexually assaulted.”
As the Trump camp’s defense has shifted, Trump’s involvement in the deal has become increasingly clear. CNN in July released a tape of Trump and Cohen purportedly discussing the McDougal payment. Then, multiple media outlets this week reported that Trump was in the room when Cohen was arranging the payment with National Enquirer publisher David Pecker. Pecker, a close friend of the president’s, bought the rights to McDougal’s story in an apparent “catch and kill” effort.
Trump on Thursday appeared to acknowledge his role in the payment, but said it wasn’t his fault that Cohen broke the law.
“He was a lawyer and he is supposed to know the law,” the president said in a tweet.