Trump’s relationship with Giuliani gets rocky
President Donald Trump on Friday distanced himself from Rudy Giuliani’s explanation of a hush-money payment longtime Trump lawyer Michael Cohen made to porn star Stormy Daniels, saying Giuliani will “get his facts straight” and that “he just started a day ago.”
Giuliani, the former New York major who recently joined Trump’s outside legal team, set off a furor when he revealed on Fox News late Wednesday that Trump had repaid Cohen for the $130,000 hush deal — a move that appeared to contradict Trump’s prior denial of any such payment.
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While Giuliani claimed that Trump was not aware of the repayment because Cohen had authority to act independently, the revelation still set off a fresh controversy and Giuliani’s extensive interviews could have introduced new legal headaches for the president.
“Rudy is a great guy, but he just started a day ago,” the president said while addressing reporters outside the White House. “But he really has his heart into it. He’s working hard. He’s learning the subject matter.”
Trump added: “He’ll get his facts straight.”
In a statement issued later on Friday “intended to clarify” his prior remarks, Giuliani said his comments about the timing of the payment “were not describing my understanding of the President’s knowledge, but instead, my understanding of these matters.” The lawyer went on to argue the payment to Daniels “was made to resolve a personal and false allegation in order to protect the President’s family” and did not constitute a campaign finance violation.
The president and his aides have repeatedly denied allegations from Daniels that she had a sexual encounter with the president in 2006, and have said that Trump was not aware of the payment that Cohen — who is now under federal investigation — made to Daniels in the month before the 2016 election.
Trump in April had answered “No” when asked by a reporter on Air Force One, “Mr. President, did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?”
When asked why Cohen made the payment if there was no truth to Daniels’ allegations, Trump replied, “Well, you’ll have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney. And you’ll have to ask Michael Cohen.”
Giuliani appeared to stun Fox News host Sean Hannity when he stated that Trump had repaid Cohen and said that he was disclosing the information with the president’s blessing in order to remove speculation that the payment could constitute a campaign finance violation because it was not disclosed.
But Giuliani complicated that argument when he made comments in a later interview that implied there was a political motivation behind the payment.
“Imagine if that came out on Oct. 15, 2016, in the middle of the, you know, last debate with Hillary Clinton,” Giuliani said. “Cohen didn’t even ask. Cohen made it go away. He did his job.”
Speaking later to reporters on the tarmac at Joint Base Andrews on Friday, the president appeared to allude to Giuliani’s remarks earlier this week.
“When he made certain statements, he just started yesterday,” Trump said. The president added that Giuliani will be issuing a “statement,” though he did not specify what it would address.