President Trump released a carefully-worded three-tweet statement confirming the bombshell disclosure by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani — a new member of the president’s legal team — that Trump reimbursed his personal attorney Michael Cohen for a $130,000 “hush money” payment to actress Stephanie Clifford, whose stage name is Stormy Daniels. The statement appeared to flatly contradict Trump’s previous assertion that he was unaware of the payment.
“Mr. Cohen, an attorney, 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,” Trump tweeted. “These agreements are very common among celebrities and people of wealth. In this case it is in full force and effect and will be used in Arbitration for damages against Ms. Clifford (Daniels).”
The president added: “The agreement was used to stop the false and extortionist accusations made by her about an affair, despite already having signed a detailed letter admitting that there was no affair. Prior to its violation by Ms. Clifford and her attorney, this was a private agreement. Money from the campaign, or campaign contributions, played no roll [sic] in this transaction.”
In an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity on Wednesday night, Giuliani said Trump repaid Cohen for his October 2016 payment to Daniels, who has said she had a sexual relationship with Trump in 2006. Giuliani mentioned a figure of $135,000; until now, other reports have specified the amount was $130,000.
“Funneled through a law firm and then the president repaid it,” Giuliani said. “He didn’t know about the specifics of it, as far as I know. But he did know the general arrangement — that Michael would take care of things like this, like I take care of things like this with my clients. I don’t burden them with every single thing that comes along. These are busy people.”
Appearing on MSNBC Wednesday night, Daniels’s attorney, Michael Avenatti, said Giuliani’s comments rendered him “speechless.”
“This is an outrage, what has gone on here,” Avenatti said. “The American people have been lied to — about this agreement, about the $130,000, about the reimbursement — and this is consistent with what we have been saying now for months. That ultimately it is going to be proven and ultimately was going to come out. We just didn’t know that Rudy Giuliani was going to go on the ‘Sean Hannity Show’ and admit it on national television.”
Asked aboard Air Force One last month whether he knew about the payment, Trump replied, “No.” When asked why Cohen made the payment, Trump told reporters that they would have to ask Cohen.
“Do you know where he got the money to make that payment?” another reporter asked Trump.
“No,” Trump replied. “I don’t know.”
But in a wide-ranging interview with “Fox & Friends” last week, Trump suggested he knew about Cohen’s involvement in arranging the nondisclosure agreement with the porn star.
“He represents me, like, with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal,” Trump said, marking the first time he had ever spoken the adult film actress’s name publicly.
In a statement to the New York Times in February, Cohen stated that he used his “own personal funds to facilitate a payment of $130,000 to Ms. Stephanie Clifford.”
Cohen added: “Neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms. Clifford, and neither reimbursed me for the payment, either directly or indirectly.”
Last month, the FBI raided Cohen’s office and hotel and reportedly seized information related to the hush-money payment. The raids were carried out on a referral from special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia.
And they enraged the president.
“Attorney-client privilege is dead!” Trump declared in one tweet, echoing Cohen’s own pushback against the record seizures.
Trump also returned to his oft-used phrase to describe Mueller’s probe.
A TOTAL WITCH HUNT!!!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 10, 2018
On Wednesday night, Giuliani referred to the FBI agents who raided Cohen’s home and office as “stormtroopers.”
Appearing on “Fox & Friends” on Thursday morning, Giuliani suggested that Trump didn’t know the full details of the payments until his lawyers told him “10 days ago.”
“Remember when this happened — October 2016,” said Giuliani, who served as an adviser to the Trump campaign. “I was with him day in and day out then. I can’t remember the details of what happened. I know $135,000 — I don’t want to demean anyone — $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.”
“Imagine if that came out on Oct. 15, 2016, in the middle of the, you know, last debate with Hillary Clinton,” Giuliani added. “Cohen made it go away. He did his job.”
Back in March, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Trump was unaware of Cohen’s payment.
“I’ve had conversations with the president about this,” Sanders told reporters during a March 7 press briefing at the White House. “There was no knowledge of any payments from the president and he’s denied all allegations.”
When asked about the latest revelations on “Fox & Friends” Thursday morning, Sanders declined to answer, pointing to Giuliani’s comments about the case.
At a press briefing on Thursday afternoon, Sanders dismissed the notion that she was lying when she said in March that Trump was unaware of Cohen’s payment to the porn star.
“I gave you the best information that I had,” she said.
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(Cover photo credit: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)