Since Rudy Giuliani claimed to Fox News’ Sean Hannity last week that President Donald Trump reimbursed Michael Cohen for his hush money to porn actress Stormy Daniels, the former New York City mayor’s explanation of the matter has evolved several times over.
Giuliani, a new addition to Trump’s personal legal team, has twisted himself into a pretzel since his initial comments on Daniels, changing his story on Trump’s knowledge of the payment and offering conflicting story lines on why the hush agreement with Daniels was arranged.
With Giuliani appearing on television left and right, it’s hard to keep track of his comments, so we’ve pulled them together into one handy guide:
What Trump knew and when
During his initial appearance on Fox News’ “Hannity,” Giuliani said that Trump “did know about the general arrangement, that Michael would take care of things like this” but that Trump was unaware of the “specifics.” Hannity reminded Giuliani that Cohen previously said he made the payment on his own, to which Giuliani replied that he had “no reason to dispute that recollection.” Giuliani did not offer a specific time at which Trump new about the payments to Hannity, but he suggested that the President knew about some kind of arrangement with Cohen before the payment became public.
Rudy: Yes, Trump paid Cohen back the $130k.
Hannity: But wait, the President didn’t know about.
Rudy: Well … pic.twitter.com/4ltYwBZwh2
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) May 3, 2018
The next morning, Giuliani told “Fox and Friends” that Trump didn’t know the details of the payment until about two weeks prior. This claim came after the hosts noted that Trump previously claimed that he was unaware of Cohen’s arrangement with Daniels.
On Friday of last week, Giuliani set out to clean up the comments he made on Wednesday and Thursday. He claimed that he never tried to reveal when Trump knew about the payment to Daniels.
“My references to timing were not describing my understanding of the President’s knowledge, but instead, my understanding of these matters,” he said in the statement.
ABC’s George Stephanopoulos pressed Giuliani on Trump’s knowledge of the payment on Sunday, asking the former mayor if Trump learned about the payment to Daniels soon after the election.
“At some point, yes, but it could have been recently, it could have been awhile back. Those are the facts that we’re still working on and that, you know, may be in a little bit of dispute. This is more rumor than anything else,” Giuliani said on ABC’s “This Week.”
Stephanopoulos noted that Giuliani told Buzzfeed News that Cohen told Trump about the payment after the election.
“That’s one of the possibilities, and one of the rumors,” Giuliani replied.
Campaign finance implications
Giuliani’s initial comments to Hannity appeared to be an effort to dispel any notion that Cohen violated campaign finance law. He told the Fox News host that the payment was “not campaign money” and that there was “no campaign violation” because Trump repaid Cohen.
Giuliani told “Fox and Friends” the next day that Trump’s reimbursement did not violate campaign finance law because it was for “personal reasons.”
“The president had been hurt personally, not politically, personally so much, and the first lady, by some of the false allegations that one more false allegation, six years old, I think he was trying to help the family,” Giuliani said.
Yet later in that same interview, Giuliani slipped and asked the “Fox and Friends” hosts to imagine if the Stormy Daniels allegations had come out before the election, suggesting Cohen made the payment to help the Trump campaign.
“Imagine if that came out on Oct. 15, 2016 in the middle of the last debate with Hillary Clinton,” Giuliani said. “Cohen didn’t even ask. Cohen made it go away. He didn’t even ask.”
In his Friday statement, Giuliani attempted to clean up the mess he made on “Fox and Friends,” insisting that the payment was made to protect Trump’s family and that the arrangement would have been made whether or not Trump was running for President.
Structure of the payments
Giuliani first simply said that Trump repaid Cohen without offering many details. He described Trump’s payment to Cohen as a “retainer” and told Hannity the President repaid Cohen “over the period of several months,” but he did not offer details on the size of Trump’s payment to Cohen.
Giuliani then told the New York Times that Trump made monthly payments to Cohen after the election of $35,000, totaling somewhere between $460,000 and $470,000.
He told Buzzfeed News that he was “almost certain that there wasn’t an itemized bill,” suggesting Trump did not know what the payments were for, and that Trump paid Cohen enough for him to profit.
Giuliani told the Washington Post the next day that Trump paid Cohen throughout 2017 and possibly into 2018.
Did Trump approve Giuliani’s media blitz?
It’s clear that Giuliani made a concerted effort to rework the narrative on Trump’s involvement in the Stormy Daniels payment, but it’s unclear just how many details he gave Trump about his approach.
The same night he first spoke with Hannity, Giuliani told the Wall Street Journal that he had spoken with the President about his plan to discuss the payment, but said he did not tell Trump when exactly he would do so. Despite this, Giuliani insisted to the Wall Street Journal that Trump was “very pleased” with his Hannity interview.
The day after Giuliani’s Hannity interview, however, Trump suggested that his new lawyer didn’t get everything right.
“I will tell you this, when Rudy made the statement, Rudy’s great, but Rudy had just started, and he wasn’t totally familiar with everything,” Trump told reporters outside the White House Thursday.
Trump says Rudy Giuliani just started and “he’ll get his facts straight” pic.twitter.com/Mxju5SfwEY
— David Taintor (@davidtaint) May 4, 2018