Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor drafted into President Trump's legal team, may have placed the president in considerable legal jeopardy Wednesday, confirming that his boss lied last month about the payment to porn star Stormy Daniels.
Giuliani told Fox News’ Sean Hannity that Trump did know about the $130,000 “hush money” payment to the adult film actress made days before the 2016 election, and that he had repaid his private lawyer Michael Cohen from his own pocket.
The bombshell revelation refutes an April 5 statement Trump made aboard Air Force One, when he told the press he had no knowledge that Cohen had paid off Daniels.
On Hannity’s show, Giuliani was attempting to show that the payment did not breach campaign financing laws. Hannity asked the former New York mayor if Cohen had made the payment through his own law practice.
“It’s not campaign money. No campaign finance violation, [they] funneled it through the law firm,” Giuliani said, “and the president repaid it.”
Hannity appeared taken aback by the revelation that Trump repaid Cohen, despite his close relationship with the president: “Oh, I didn’t know that he did,” the host said.
When pressed on whether Trump knew what the payment was for, Giuliani said: “He didn’t know about the specifics as far as I know, but he did know about the general arrangement. Michael would take care of things like this.”
Cohen is alleged to have paid Daniels $130,000 as part of a nondisclosure agreement to prevent her speaking in public about an affair she alleges took place in 2006, a year after Trump married his current wife Melania.
Speaking later to BuzzFeed, Giuliani gave more details about the repayment, saying Cohen had been complaining he hadn't been repaid in full. Trump at some point met with Cohen and agreed to pay him $35,000 a month “out of his personal funds” over the course of a year to cover his expenses.
“It clearly was a payment to reimburse expenses,” Giuliani said, adding, “I’m almost certain that there wasn’t an itemized bill.” If Cohen collected all those payments, it would total $420,000.
“Michael saw an opportunity to settle it for not very much money, and he took it,” Giuliani said, referring to the payment as a way to “remove personal embarrassment to Melania.”
Giuliani added: “I don't think they thought about it as a campaign thing.”
Trump also chimed in with a series of tweets Thursday morning arguing that the retainer fees he paid Cohen are standard practice for "people of wealth" and have "nothing to do with the campaign."
Others did not see it that way, arguing that the payment could still be considered an illegal loan to the campaign, since it was campaign-related.
It is unclear why Giuliani made the unprompted disclosure, but it could be related to the FBI’s raid on Cohen’s office last month. Giuliani referred to the agents who conducted the raid as “stormtroopers” — a term associated with Nazi Germany.
Daniels’ lawyer Michael Avenatti said he was stunned by the revelation and told CNN that the president 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 his term. No way, no how. He will be forced to ultimately resign,” Avenatti said.
The shock announcement overshadowed several other noteworthy items mentioned by Giuliani during the interview, including a call for the Department of Justice to shut down the Russia investigation “in the interest of justice” and calling for former FBI director James Comey to be jailed for leaking classified information.
The disclosure came on the same day that Ty Cobb, the head of Trump’s legal team dealing with the probe by FBI special counsel Robert Mueller, announced he was retiring. Replacing him will be Emmet Flood, a formidable attorney who represented Bill Clinton during his impeachment hearings.
Cover image: Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani speaks to reporters at Trump Tower, January 12, 2017 in New York City. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)