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Giuliani: Trump Knew I Would Talk About Stormy Payment

Analysts say Giuliani might be wrong about Trump not being in campaign finance trouble
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 3, 2018 5:40 AM CDT
Updated May 3, 2018 6:35 AM CDT
Trump Could Still Be in Campaign Finance Trouble
In this Jan. 12, 2017 photo, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani talks with reporters in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York.   (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

(Newser) – President Trump might have reimbursed his lawyer for a hush-money payment to a porn star and then possibly lied about it, but at least he's off the hook for campaign finance violations, according to Rudy Giuliani's startling admission on Sean Hannity's show Wednesday night. Analysts say he might be wrong about that last part. Lawrence Noble at the Campaign Legal Center tells the Washington Post that the timing of Michael Cohen's $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels shortly before the 2016 election strongly points to it being campaign-related, making it an unreported "excessive contribution" to the campaign, whether or not it was repaid from Trump's personal funds. He adds that the funneling of the money through legal fees shows "intent to hide the source, which could make it knowing and willful, which is criminal." In other coverage:

  • What was Giuliani thinking? Sol Wisenberg, who served as deputy independent counsel during the Kenneth Starr investigation of Bill Clinton, says he is perplexed by the strategy of Giuliani, who recently joined Trump's legal team. It "obviously increases the president's exposure to potential campaign finance violations, but it also makes him look terrible," he tells the AP, adding: "Maybe it's been too long since he's been in the criminal justice field."

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  • Giuliani doesn't think he'll be fired. Giuliani tells the Washington Post that he doesn't know when Trump first found out about the payment to Daniels, who claims to have had an affair with the president, or if he "distinguished it from other things Cohen might have done for him during the campaign" that he was reimbursed for. Giuliani says Trump knew what he was going to say about the payment. "He was well aware that at some point when I saw the opportunity, I was going to get this over with," Giuliani says.
  • A new explanation for Comey firing. The Daniels case isn't the only one that just became more complicated, New York reports. Giuliani—in his first TV interview as Trump's attorney—also said that Trump fired James Comey because the FBI chief wouldn't say he wasn't a target of the Russia investigation. Analysts say this not only contradicts Trump's earlier explanations, it "sounds like the very definition of obstruction of justice."
  • White House response. Fox reports that deputy White House press secretary Hogan Gidley told the network Wednesday night that officials were unaware of what topics Giuliani would discuss on Hannity. He declined to discuss the Daniels payment, saying the matter had to be referred to Trump's private counsel.
  • The timeline. Giuliani told Hannity that Trump reimbursed Cohen for $470,000 in "incidental expenses," including the payment to Daniels, over several months in payments that he believes were completed in 2017. The AP notes that no debt to Cohen appears on Trump's June 2017 financial disclosure form.

  • Daniels' lawyer weighs in. "We predicted months ago that it would be proven that the American people had been lied to as to the $130k payment and what Mr. Trump knew, when he knew it and what he did in connection with it," attorney Michael Avenatti tweeted Wednesday night, adding: "Every American, regardless of their politics, should be outraged."
  • Giuliani backpedals. John Roberts, Fox's chief White House correspondent, said early Thursday that Giuliani had walked back some of his remarks, Mediaite reports. Roberts said Giuliani told him Cohen told Trump he had "expenses" for which he was reimbursed, but didn't explain what they were for.
  • A web of contradictions. The New York Times lists some of the contradictory statements made by Trump, Cohen, and others about the Stormy Daniels payment.
  • More Stormys? Avenatti had some bombshells of his own to drop in a Late Show appearance taped before Giuliani's Fox appearance, the Daily Beast reports. He said he had evidence showing the $130,000 payment was made from a company Cohen created in California, meaning he could face state charges Trump won't be able to pardon him from. He also suggested that many more women who also signed Trump-related non-disclosure agreements have been in touch with him.
(Read more Stormy Daniels stories.)

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