Contradicting previous public statements by President Donald Trump, new Trump legal adviser Rudy Giuliani said Wednesday night that Mr. Trump had repaid his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, for a $130,000 payment made to porn star Stormy Daniels before the 2016 elections, as Giuliani denied that it violated campaign finance laws in any way.
"Funneled it through a law firm, and the President repaid it," Giuliani said to Fox News host Sean Hannity.
"Oh. I didn't know he did," Hannity replied, as Giuliani - just brought on to Mr. Trump's legal team in recent weeks - told a much different story than had previously been offered by Mr. Trump and his aides.
What did we learn from Wednesday night?
1. Giuliani confirms Trump money was funneled to Daniels. Little by little, the Stormy Daniels story has been getting out. The non-disclosure agreement involving Daniels and a "Dennis Dennison," who was assumed to be Trump. His lack of a signature on that agreement. Lawyer Michael Cohen finally saying he paid the $130,000 out of his own home equity loan, and that he was not reimbursed. But in the end, Cohen was paid back. Interviewed by Sean Hannity on Fox News, Giuliani had been teed up with an easy question about whether Special Counsel Robert Mueller was overstepping his authority, by getting into the Cohen matter. That's when Giuliani made the news about the $130,000 payment.
2. What has the President said in the past about Daniels? On April 5, aboard Air Force One, Mr. Trump was asked directly by reporters about the Stormy Daniels matter. "Mr. President, did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?" The President's answer was simple and direct. "No." But as Giuliani revealed on Wednesday night, that wasn't the complete answer.
3. The initial White House response - a bit stunned. This was not the segment that White House aide Hogan Gidley had planned for. One would have assumed that his Fox News appearance would have simply been to reinforce the points made earlier in the evening by Giuliani, echoing stern criticism of both the Mueller investigation, and the comments/actions of former FBI Director James Comey. Instead, Gidley was put on the spot over the $130,000 Stormy Daniels payment revelation. "We have nothing to say about it."
4. Trump and Giuliani reportedly on the same page. While the details laid out by the former New York City Mayor left the news hosts at Fox News seeming somewhat stunned, the President and Giuliani let it be known afterwards that they had already discussed this revelation, and that there were no hard feelings. Regardless, it was a different version of events than the one told by Mr. Trump, and by White House officials.
5. Democrats can barely contain themselves. "That's a whole lot of toothpaste that somebody's going to have to try to put back in the tube," said Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA) of the Giuliani revelation about the Stormy Daniels payment. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) dug back into an old Jimmy Breslin book, to describe the Trump legal team as the "The Gang that Couldn't Shoot Straight." "This is probably all part of a very sophisticated and well executed plan," said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI).
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