WASHINGTON • President Donald Trump's attorney, Mr Rudy Giuliani, said he would not rule out the possibility that payments were made to women other than porn star Stormy Daniels to get them to stay silent about allegations against the US leader.
Mr Giuliani told ABC's This Week programme that he had no knowledge of whether former Trump attorney Michael Cohen had made other payments, but he said: "I would think if it was necessary, yes. He (Cohen) made payments for the President or he's conducted business for the President."
Mr Giuliani called the US$130,000 (S$174,000) Mr Cohen paid to Ms Daniels in 2016 a "nuisance payment". Ms Daniels alleges she had a sexual encounter with Mr Trump in 2006 but he denies it.
Mr Cohen, Mr Trump's longtime personal lawyer, faces a criminal investigation in part over the payment to Ms Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford. Ms Daniels' lawyer Michael Avenatti accused Mr Trump of having an "extramarital affair slush fund" and told ABC he believed similar payments had been made to other women. Disclosure of additional payments could complicate matters for Mr Trump, who initially denied knowledge that money was paid to Ms Daniels.
During a Fox News interview last week, Mr Giuliani linked the payment to the presidential campaign and acknowledged for the first time that Mr Trump had been aware of the payment. He told the New York Times later that Mr Trump reimbursed Mr Cohen a total of US$460,000 or US$470,000 after the election campaign was over, which he said included "incidental expenses".
Mr Giuliani's statement on Sunday about possible additional payments to other women was one of several startling admissions during his first extended television appearance since Mr Trump criticised him last week for not having his "facts straight" about payments made to Ms Daniels.
He also suggested the President might invoke the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination to avoid testifying in the special counsel's investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the US election.
Mr Giuliani, a former federal prosecutor and New York City mayor hired by Mr Trump to smooth communication between the White House and special counsel Robert Mueller, instead painted Mr Mueller as an out-of-control prosecutor bent on trapping Mr Trump into committing perjury.
The President, he said, could defy a subpoena to testify.
"We don't have to," Mr Giuliani said on the ABC programme.
"He's the President of the United States. We can assert the same privileges other presidents have."
Mr Giuliani, who met the special counsel's office shortly after joining the Trump legal team last month, said he and another lawyer, Mr Jay Sekulow, agreed Mr Trump should not speak to Mr Mueller.
But he acknowledged that he had little, if any, control over the President, who said as recently as Friday that he still wanted to speak to the special counsel.
"Every lawyer in America thinks he would be a fool to testify, (but) I've got a client who wants to testify," Mr Giuliani said, when asked whether Mr Trump would invoke the Fifth Amendment.
During the presidential campaign, Mr Trump ridiculed his Democratic opponent, Mrs Hillary Clinton, when some of her aides invoked the Fifth Amendment during a congressional investigation of Mrs Clinton's use of a private e-mail server. "If you're innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?"Mr Trump said at a campaign rally in Iowa in September 2016.