After telling Fox News host Sean Hannity on Wednesday night that President Trump repaid his lawyer Michael Cohen for having quietly “funneled” $130,000 to porn star Stormy Daniels in October 2016 to secure her silence about a purported affair with Trump, Rudy Giuliani elaborated on the repayment scheme to various reporters, arguing that the details clear Trump of any campaign finance violations.
“Some time after the campaign is over, they set up a reimbursement, $35,000 a month, out of his personal family account,” Giuliani, a new addition to Trump’s legal team, told The New York Times. In total, Trump reimbursed Cohen $460,000 or $470,000 for the Daniels payment, which Cohen made “on his own authority,” and other “incidental expenses,” Giuliani said, adding that he was “not clear that” Trump knew about the Daniels payment at the the time.
Giuliani told The Washington Post that Cohen knew he would get paid back eventually. “There probably were other things of a personal nature that Michael took care of for which the president would have always trusted him as his lawyer,” he said. Trump and he had discussed disclosing Trump’s repaying Cohen, and “he was well aware that at some point when I saw the opportunity, I was going to get this over with,” Giuliani added. He told The Wall Street Journal that Trump was “very pleased” with the Hannity interview, because “we finally got our side of the story.”
The admission that Trump repaid Cohen “removes the campaign finance violation,” Giuliani told the Times, but campaign finance experts disagreed. If Cohen paid Daniels without being reimbursed to protect Trump during the campaign, that would likely be an illegal campaign contribution; if Trump paid him back, it could be considered an unreported campaign loan; and “Giuliani suggesting it was funneled through the firm as legal fees,” Larry Noble at the Campaign Legal Center tells the Post, “is evidence of an intent to hide the source, which could make it knowing and willful, which is criminal.”