The New York Times reported Friday night that President Donald Trump knew about the six-figure payment his attorney-fixer Michael Cohen made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels months before he denied knowledge of the arrangement to reporters in April.
While it is not yet known when Trump became aware of the payment — designed to suppress Daniels’ story of an affair with Trump in the lead-up to the 2016 election — or how much he knew about the details of the non-disclosure agreement, the Times reports that the President knew that Cohen had worked to silence Daniels at the time he was asked about it.
Additionally, according to the Times, the chief financial officer of the Trump Organization knew the details of how Cohen was reimbursed since last year, a revelation that opens the President’s business to further legal scrutiny as federal investigators look into Cohen’s activities.
The White House’s official story about the matter began to unravel earlier this week, when newly-hired attorney and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani gave a freewheeling interview on Fox News in which he confirmed for the first time that Trump reimbursed Cohen for the $130,000 paid to Daniels, and suggested that Trump fired FBI Director James Comey in retaliation for Comey refusing to publicly exonerate him as the Russia investigation unfolded.
White House aides were reportedly blindsided by Giuliani’s disclosures, and in the scramble to respond on Friday morning, Trump told reporters that his long-time confidante and senior attorney had “just started” and “wasn’t totally familiar with everything.” A few hours later, Giuliani issued a statement walking back some of his claims about Trump’s involvement in the Daniels’ hush money transfer. He also insisted, again, that Cohen’s payment to Daniels would have happened whether or not Trump was a presidential candidate — a key point, as a secret payment meant to salvage his electoral chances could be an illegal campaign expenditure.