Donald Trump personally repaid his lawyer Michael Cohen the $130,000 hush money given to the adult-film star Stormy Daniels days before the 2016 presidential election to buy her silence over an alleged affair, Rudy Giuliani said on Wednesday night.
In an interview with Sean Hannity of Fox News, the former mayor of New York, who recently joined Trump’s legal team dealing with the Russian investigation, let out the bombshell detail that the US president had fully repaid the hush money. The disclosure contradicts Trump’s own firm statement, made on Air Force One last month, that he had no knowledge of his private lawyer Michael Cohen having paid Daniels the $130,000 sum.
“So they funneled it through the law firm,” Hannity asked, referring to Cohen’s legal practice.
“Funnelled it through the law firm,” Giuliani concurred, “and the president repaid it.”
Hannity appeared to be surprised by the revelation. “Oh, I didn’t know that he did.”
“Yup,” said Giuliani.
Michael Avenatti, who represents Daniels, told CNBC: “This is exactly what we predicted would ultimately be shown. Every American, regardless of their politics, should be outraged.”
But it also puts Trump in a difficult spot in which he has to answer for his apparent contradictions over the handling of Stormy Daniels’ allegations in the final run-up to the 2016 election. Asked by reporters on 5 April while on board the official presidential jet whether he knew of the $130,000 payment, he bluntly replied: “No”.
Trump only finally admitted that Cohen had represented him in the Daniels negotiations last week. “He represents me, like with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal, he represented me,” he said, again on Fox News.
Under questioning from Hannity, Giuliani went on in the Wednesday night interview to provide further details. He said that the $130,000 was initially paid for by Cohen but then “the president had reimbursed him over a period of several months”.
Asked by Hannity whether Trump had known about the payment, Giuliani appeared to dig the hole deeper when he said: “He didn’t know about the specifics as far as I know, but he did know about the general arrangement. Michael would take care of things like this.”
Giuliani alluded to the deep worry, bordering on panic, that had taken hold of the White House over the Daniels affair. “Everybody was nervous about this from the very beginning,” he said. Then he added: “I wasn’t.”
He went on: “I know how much Donald Trump put into that campaign. I said, ‘$130,000. You are going to do a couple of checks for $130,000.”