Rudy Giuliani said Wednesday that President Donald Trump paid back his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, the $130,000 in hush money that was used to pay off Stormy Daniels.
Giuliani’s statement – to Fox News’ Sean Hannity – contradicted Trump, who previously denied knowledge of the payment, which has since spurred a lawsuit against the President.
Later, Giuliani told The Washington Post he had spoken to the President far in advance about publicly discussing the reimbursement, and said he doesn’t expect to be fired. He said his remarks on Hannity were approved by Trump.
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal after the Fox News interview aired, Giuliani said again that Trump had paid Cohen back, but argued that it was not a campaign finance violation or a crime of any kind.
When asked whether his statements to Fox contradict Trump’s previous denial of knowledge of the payment, Giuliani said it was “not [an] issue,” according to the Journal. Trump was “probably not aware” of Cohen’s payment to Daniels when it happened, he added.
“Remember October 2016, hardly will recall any of that in detail. I don’t remember it clearly either,” Giuliani said, according to The Wall Street Journal.
When asked about Giuliani’s initial comments, White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley told Fox News that it is ongoing litigation and referred the questions to the President’s outside counsel.
The payment is going to turn out to be “perfectly legal,” Giuliani told Hannity.
“That money was not campaign money, sorry,” Giuliani said. “I’m giving you a fact now that you don’t know. It’s not campaign money. No campaign finance violation.”
Hannity replied: “Because they funneled it through the law firm?”
To which Giuliani said: “Funneled it through the law firm, and the President repaid him.”
Giuliani recently joined Trump’s legal team in an effort to bring special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s 2016 election meddling and any possible coordination with the Trump campaign to an end. The addition of Giuliani came following the departure of Trump’s former lawyer John Dowd.
Cohen admitted to paying Daniels out of his own pocket through a private LLC. However, Trump never signed the nondisclosure agreement, so Daniels is claiming in her suit that the agreement is now void.
“In a private transaction in 2016, I used my own personal funds to facilitate a payment of $130,000 to Ms. Stephanie Clifford,” Cohen said in a statement in February. “Neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms. Clifford, and neither reimbursed me for the payment, either directly or indirectly.”
There have been questions surrounding the legality of the payment considering various campaign finance laws.
In January, the group Common Cause sent letters to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and the Federal Election Commission asking them to investigate the Daniels payment, calling it an illegal in-kind campaign contribution.
Daniels’ lawyer Michael Avenatti said he was “stunned” by Giuliani’s claim that Trump knew about the payment. “I am stunned and speechless. If this is accurate, the American people have been lied to and deceived for months. And justice must be served,” Avenatti said.
Common Cause’s Paul S. Ryan said Giuliani’s comments could expose Trump to possible criminal prosecution, along with Cohen. Ryan said if Trump reimbursed Cohen that would mean Trump knew about the payment, which would make Trump vulnerable.
Ryan said despite whether Cohen was paid back, Trump’s lawyer could have violated campaign contribution law, because Ryan said it appears Cohen made an illegally large in-kind contribution to the Trump campaign.
Giuliani on Comey
In the same interview, Giuliani also called ex-FBI Director James Comey a “disgraceful liar,” and said he thinks Comey should be prosecuted.
“I know James Comey. I know the President. Sorry, Jim, you’re a liar – a disgraceful liar,” Giuliani said.
Giuliani then went on to say that “every FBI agent in America has his head down,” because of Comey.
Comey and Trump have had a tumultuous relationship following Comey’s firing. Comey recently published a memoir, which detailed his encounters with the President, and has said he thinks Trump is “morally unfit” for the presidency.
Trump, in turn, has also repeatedly sounded off on Comey via social media.
Prior to Comey’s book release, Trump even insinuated Comey should go to jail, tweeting: “The big questions in Comey’s badly reviewed book aren’t answered like, how come he gave up Classified Information (jail), why did he lie to Congress (jail), why did the DNC refuse to give Server to the FBI (why didn’t they TAKE it), why the phony memos, McCabe’s $700,000 & more?”
Giuliani echoed that suggestion on Fox News, telling Hannity that Comey should be prosecuted.
“Comey should be prosecuted for leaking confidential FBI information when he leaked his report intended to develop a special prosecutor for the President of the United States,” Giuliani said.
CNN’s MJ Lee and Sara Sidner contributed to this report.