WASHINGTON (AFP) - Donald Trump reimbursed his long-time lawyer Michael Cohen over a US$130,000 payment made to porn star Stormy Daniels, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani said on Wednesday (May 2), appearing to contradict the president’s own statements on the matter.
Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, claims she had an affair with Trump in 2006 and was paid the sum as part of a “hush agreement”.
“They funneled it through a law firm and the president repaid it,” Giuliani, who recently joined Trump’s legal team, told Fox News host Sean Hannity.
“That was money that was paid by his lawyer, the way I would do, out of his law firm funds or whatever funds, it doesn’t matter. The president reimbursed that over a period of several months,” Giuliani said.
He added that the payment did not represent a campaign financing violation because it was “not campaign money.”
Giuliani said the president knew the general arrangement but didn't know the specifics.
The sum was wired to Daniels just days before the November 2016 presidential election, and there had been suggestions Cohen could have fallen foul of campaign finance laws because it represented a contribution aimed at preventing negative press from arising.
Trump had previously denied all knowledge of the payment to Daniels, before admitting last week that Cohen struck a “deal” with the porn star on his behalf.
Asked by reporters on Air Force One earlier this month about the deal, Trump said: “You’ll have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney. You’ll have to ask Michael,” he said.
Pressed on whether he knew where Cohen got the money to make the payment, he said: “No, I don’t know. No.”
Giuliani elaborated on the matter in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, telling the newspaper Trump was “probably not aware” of the payment at the time it was made, having given Cohen broad “discretion to solve these”.
Daniels’ lawyer Michael Avenatti reacted swiftly to the revelation, calling out the US president over his “lies”.
“We predicted months ago that it would be proven that the American people had been lied to as to the $130k payment and what Mr. Trump knew, when he knew it and what he did in connection with it,” he wrote on Twitter.
“Every American, regardless of their politics, should be outraged by what we have now learned. Mr. Trump stood on AF1 and blatantly lied.”
Daniels filed a lawsuit against the president on Monday for defamation after he trashed her claim that she had been threatened by a man representing Trump in 2011. Cohen, meanwhile, has legal troubles of his own.
The FBI raided his home and office in early April and seized documents and other material in connection with a criminal investigation.
The nature of the alleged criminal wrongdoing by Trump’s personal attorney has not been revealed.