New ‘Stormy’ story clashes with ear­lier state­ments


Fri­day, May 4, 2018

WASHINGTON — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump in­sisted Thurs­day his re­im­burse­ment of a 2016 hush payment to porn ac­tress Stormy Daniels had noth­ing to do with his elec­tion cam­paign. But the sur­prise rev­e­la­tion of the pres­i­dent’s payment clashed with his past state­ments, cre­ated new le­gal headaches and stunned many in the West Wing.

White House aides were blind­sided when Trump’s re­cently added at­tor­ney, Rudy Gi­u­liani, said Wed­nes­day night that the pres­i­dent re­paid Michael Co­hen for $130,000 that was given to Daniels to keep her quiet be­fore the 2016 elec­tion about her al­le­ga­tions of an af­fair with Trump. Gi­u­liani’s rev­e­la­tion, which seemed to con­tra­dict Trump’s past state­ments, came as the pres­i­dent’s newly con­fig­ured out­side le­gal team pur­sued his de­fense, ap­par­ently with zero co­or­di­na­tion with the West Wing.

White House press sec­re­tary Sarah Huck­abee San­ders said she first learned that Trump re­paid the hush money from Gi­u­liani’s in­ter­view on Fox News Chan­nel’s “Han­nity.” Staffers’ phones be­gan to buzz within mo­ments. Deputy press sec­re­tary Ho­gan Gi­d­ley, who pre-taped an in­ter­view with Fox News ear­lier Wed­nes­day evening, was sud­denly sum­moned to re­turn for a live in­ter­view.

While Gi­u­liani said the payment to Daniels was “go­ing to turn out to be per­fectly le­gal,” le­gal ex­perts said the new in­for­ma­tion raised a num­ber of ques­tions, in­clud­ing whether the money rep­re­sented re­pay­ment of an undis­closed loan or could be seen as re­im­burse­ment for a cam­paign ex­pen­di­ture. Ei­ther could be legally prob­lem­atic.

Gi­u­liani in­sisted Trump didn’t know the specifics of Co­hen’s ar­range­ment with Daniels un­til re­cently, telling “Fox & Friends” on Thurs­day Hawaii that the pres­i­dent didn’t know all the de­tails un­til “maybe 10 days ago.” Gi­u­liani told The New York Times that Trump re­paid Co­hen $35,000 a month “out of his per­sonal fam­ily ac­count” af­ter the cam­paign was over. He said Co­hen re­ceived $460,000 or $470,000 in all for ex­penses re­lated to Trump.

But no debt to Co­hen was listed on Trump’s per­sonal fi­nan­cial dis­clo­sure form, which was cer­ti­fied June 16, 2017. Asked if Trump filed a fraud­u­lent form, San­ders said: “I don’t know.”

Gi­u­liani said the payment was not a cam­paign fi­nance vi­o­la­tion, but also ac­knowl­edged Daniels’ hushed-up al­le­ga­tions could have af­fected the cam­paign, say­ing: “Imag­ine if that came out on Oct. 15, 2016, in the mid­dle of the last de­bate with Hil­lary Clin­ton.”

Ques­tions re­main about just what Trump knew and when.

As­so­ci­ated Press

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump talks with White House Chief of Staff John Kelly in the Oval Of­fice be­fore the start of a Na­tional Day of Prayer event Thurs­day at the White House.




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