President Trump changed his tune Thursday morning about money his lawyer gave to adult film actress Stormy Daniels.
The president was forced to make the admission because of Rudy Giuliani's appearance on Fox News yesterday. The former New York City mayor, who recently joined Trump's legal team, said the president reimbursed attorney Michael Cohen for a $130,000 payment to Daniels. That contradicted Trump's repeated denials that he knew anything about the arrangement.
However, Giuliani insisted that the money, which Daniels received just days before the 2016 election, did not come from Trump campaign funds. Instead, Cohen used part of the retainer Trump had given him for legal services, according to the ex-mayor. The Justice Department and the Federal Elections Commission are investigating whether any campaign-finance laws were broken.
On “Fox & Friends” Thursday morning, Giuliani argued that “if we had to defend this as not being a campaign contribution, I think we could do that.” He explained: “This is for personal reasons. The president had been hurt personally, not politically, personally so much — and the first lady — by some of the false allegations. … I think (Cohen) was trying to help the family. For that he’s treated like some kind of villain.” Giuliani said the payment was necessary “to save not so much their marriage, as much as their reputation.”
Trump claimed on Twitter that he did not have a sexual relationship with Daniels, but he confessed to having paid her to sign a non-disclosure agreement in return for the money.
“These agreements are very common among celebrities and people of wealth,” the president wrote. “In this case it is in full force and effect and will be used in Arbitration for damages against Ms. Clifford (Daniels). The agreement was used to stop the false and extortionist accusations made by her about an affair.”
In a lawsuit Daniels filed earlier this year, she contended that the NDA was invalid because Trump did not sign it. On Monday, the actress added a defamation suit. She cited an April 19th tweet in which the president accused her of lying about having been threatened. Daniels claims that in 2011, a man confronted her in a parking lot in Las Vegas and said: “Leave Trump alone. Forget the story.”
Daniels' lawyer, Michael Avenatti, told MSNBC on Wednesday he was “absolutely speechless at this revelation” that Giuliani was contradicting the president. He added: “I hope that your viewers and I hope that the American people upon hearing this and watching that clip, they should be outraged. … (Americans) deserve to be told the truth by your president and the people that stand at the podium at the White House.”
The following day, Avenatti suggested that a “moron” on the president's legal team wrote Thursday's messages on Trump's Twitter account. The lawyer warned that the tweets provide more evidence for Daniels' case. “I think there's no question he's defaming my client,” he said.
Giuliani's comments baffled many legal experts and political observers. Paul Ryan of Common Cause, which has filed complaints about the hush-money payment with the FEC and the Justice Department, accused the former mayor of putting Trump “in legal peril for ‘knowing and willful’ violations of campaign finance law.”
Ryan said, “Giuliani seemingly thought he was doing President Trump a favor, but instead made Trump’s legal problems much, much worse.” The Fox News interviews gave the Justice Department proof “that President Trump committed criminal violations of federal law,” according to Ryan.
Giuliani also criticized Robert Mueller's investigation of the Trump-Russia scandal. The special counsel is looking into the Kremlin's interference in the 2016 election and the Trump campaign's possible collusion in those efforts. Mueller also is reportedly trying to determine whether the president obstructed justice when he fired FBI Director James Comey in May 2017, and later admitted he was trying to thwart the bureau's election-meddling probe.
“This is a completely tainted investigation,” Giuliani said. “I know James Comey. I know the president. Sorry, Jim, you’re a liar, a disgraceful liar. Every FBI agent in America has their head down because of you. … (Trump) fired Comey because Comey would not, among other things, say that he wasn’t a target of the investigation. He’s entitled to that. Hillary Clinton got that and he couldn’t get that. So he fired him and he said, 'I’m free of this guy.'”
Mueller has asked Trump to sit down for an interview regarding the election tampering, the firings of Comey and former national security director Michael Flynn, and other matters. According to Giuliani, the president may have agreed to be questioned if the FBI had not raided the home and office of Cohen, who has been described as Trump's long-time “fixer.”
On Thursday, the president appeared to be attempting to divert attention from the escalating controversies. He focused on the impending release of U.S. hostages from North Korea, and spoke at a National Day of Prayer event.