Rudy Giuliani, who recently joined President Donald Trump's legal team, said Wednesday that the president footed the bill for the $130,000 payment that adult film star Stormy Daniels received in the waning days of the 2016 campaign. This was a bombshell, as Trump had previously said that he had no knowledge of the payment. On Friday, in full damage control mode, Trump said that Giuliani doesn't know the "facts" of the Daniels case, so we shouldn't listen to what he says about it.
"Rudy is a great guy, but he just started a day ago," Trump told reporters on Friday morning. "He started yesterday... He'll get his facts straight."
Later in the day, Trump addressed the topic again before leaving Washington to speak at the National Rifle Association convention, and again suggested that Giuliani — who, again, is Trump's own lawyer — is uninformed about the matter that he's ostensibly advising the president on.
"When Rudy made the statements — Rudy's great — but Rudy had just started," Trump said. "And he wasn't totally familiar with everyb — you know, everything. And Rudy — we love Rudy; he's a special guy."
It was long known that another Trump lawyer, Michael Cohen, had paid Daniels $130,000 during the 2016 campaign, making Giuliani's claim to Sean Hannity that Trump compensated Cohen for that payment jaw-dropping. It both suggested that the president was lying when he denied having known about the payment and raised questions about possible campaign finance violations.
Daniels says that she and Trump had sex in 2006, and that the $130,000 Cohen paid her was hush money to keep her quiet about it during the election. Cohen has said that Trump denies having had sex with Daniels, and the president recently claimed she is making "false and extortionist accusations."
After Giuliani told Hannity that Trump compensated Cohen for the payment, Trump tweeted that "money from the campaign, or campaign contributions, played no roll [sic] in this transaction." This is an important point: If the Daniels payment was made with political concerns in mind — and not simply to, for instance, save Trump's family the embarrassment — it would be considered a campaign contribution, and possibly an illegal one.
Giuliani flatly rejects this idea, telling Hannity Wednesday that the $130,000 "was not campaign money" and that there was "no campaign finance violation." But in an interview with Fox & Friends the next day, Giuliani suggested that politics did, in fact, play a role in the payment.
"Imagine if [allegations that Trump had sex with Daniels] came out on Oct. 15, 2016, in the middle of the, you know, last debate with Hillary Clinton," Giuliani said. "Cohen made it go away. He did his job."
Giuliani issued a statement Friday afternoon, attempting to clarify his earlier remarks. It reads in part:
First: There is no campaign violation The payment was made to resolve a personal and false allegation in order to protect the president's family. It would have been done in any event, whether [Trump] was a candidate or not.
Second: My references to timing were not describing my understanding of the president's knowledge, but instead, my understanding of these matters.
The first point makes Giuliani's comments on Fox & Friends puzzling, however; as many have pointed out, there would be no reason for Giuliani to cite the effect that the Daniels payment had on the campaign if, in fact, the payment was completely unrelated to the campaign. With his second point, Giuliani appears to be suggesting that Trump compensated Cohen for the Daniels payment without knowing that he was doing so, although it's not entirely clear.
One thing is clear, however: Nothing that Trump or Giuliani have said in the last few days will make this story go away anytime soon.