President Donald Trump on Thursday tried to explain Rudy Giuliani’s startling claim that Trump reimbursed personal lawyer Michael Cohen for a $130,000 settlement to silence adult film star Stormy Daniels, who alleges she had an affair with the president.
Trump said in a tweet that Cohen was paid 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 ... known as a non-disclosure agreement.”
He added that the agreement was to “stop the false and extortionist accusations made by her about an affair.”
The president’s tweets appeared to ratify a central claim of Giuliani’s startling statements Wednesday night on Fox News.
“It’s going to turn out to be perfectly legal; that money was not campaign money,” Giuliani, who joined Trump’s legal team last month to handle issues related to special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, told Fox News’ Sean Hannity Wednesday night in an attempt to argue that the payment wasn’t a campaign finance violation. The payment was “funneled through a law firm, and then the president repaid it.”
“Sorry, I’m giving you a fact now that you don’t know,” Giuliani told Hannity.
He said the president was unaware of the “specifics” of the payments, “but he did know about the general arrangement that Michael would take care of things like this.”
Giuliani told The New York Times after his appearance on Hannity’s show that a monthly $35,000 reimbursement scheme was set up, coming out of a personal Trump family account. Trump ended up paying Cohen $460,000 to $470,000 in total, including funds for “incidental expenses,” he said.
Thursday morning, on “Fox & Friends,” Giuliani seemed to backpedal on his statement that Trump knew about the payments to Cohen.
“He didn’t know the details of this until we knew the details of it, which is a couple weeks ago ― maybe not even a couple weeks, maybe 10 days ago,” Giuliani said of Trump. “Remember when this came up ― October 2016 ... I don’t want to demean anyone, but $135,000 seems like a lot of money. It’s not when you’re putting $100 million into your campaign. It isn’t pocket change, but it’s pretty close to it.”
Giuliani also came to the defense of Cohen, who Trump has held at arm’s length since FBI raids last month seized records from the lawyer.
“I think he was trying to help the family,” Giuliani said of Cohen. “And for that, the man is being treated like some kind of villain. And I think he was just being a good lawyer and a good man.”
Giuliani told the Times that he had discussed what he planned to say on Fox News Wednesday night with Trump before and after the interview.
His interview contradicted the statements of Trump and Cohen. Cohen said in March that he’d paid Daniels out of his own pocket. Trump said he had no knowledge that Cohen had paid Daniels, when asked last month aboard Air Force One.
“You’ll have to ask Michael Cohen,” he said when reporters pressed him. “Michael is my attorney. You’ll have to ask Michael.”
Michael Avenatti, Daniels’ attorney, called Giuliani’s admission a “bombshell” that will undoubtedly bring the president down. Trump, he said in an interview with CNN, could face “potential criminal liability” related to money laundering, campaign finance and fraud violations.
“I said it weeks ago, I’m going to say it again: Mr. Trump will not serve out his term,” Avenatti said.
This article has been updated to include Giuliani’s comments Thursday on “Fox & Friends.”