Rudy Giuliani says President Trump reimbursed lawyer Michael Cohen for $130,000 payment to porn star Stormy Daniels

Key Points
  • Rudy Giuliani, who has joined President Trump's legal team, said Trump repaid his personal lawyer for a hush payment made to a porn star before the election.
  • Giuliani's account contradicts the version of events from both Trump and his lawyer, Michael Cohen.
  • Giuliani also said that Trump fired FBI Director James Comey because Comey wouldn't "say that [Trump] wasn't a target of the investigation."
President Trump confirms he reimbursed lawyer for Stormy Daniels payment

President Donald Trump repaid his personal lawyer Michael Cohen for a hush payment to porn star Stormy Daniels, Rudy Giuliani, one of the lawyers representing the president in the special counsel's probe, said Wednesday night.

Giuliani, a former federal prosecutor and mayor of New York, made the remark on Wednesday night's edition of "Hannity" on Fox News. His statements appear to directly contradict the version of events proffered by both Trump and Cohen about the payment.

"Funneled through a law firm, and the president repaid it," Giuliani told host Sean Hannity.

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The $130,000 payment to Daniels came as part of a nondisclosure pact brokered by Cohen shortly before the 2016 election in exchange for Daniels' silence about an alleged affair with Trump.

Daniels' lawyer, Michael Avenatti, told CNBC: "This is exactly what we predicted would ultimately be shown. Every American, regardless of their politics, should be outraged."

Asked if Giuliani's admission is evidence of a campaign finance violation, Avenatti simply said, "Yes."

In a string of carefully worded tweets Thursday morning, Trump denied that the payment made to Daniels came from campaign contributions, saying: "Money from the campaign, or campaign contributions, played no roll in this transaction."

In his tweets, Trump validated Guiliani's remarks on Fox News and undermined his own and Cohen's previous assertions that Trump knew nothing about the payment to Daniels. Trump also denied the affair.

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In an interview with The New York Times after the Wednesday night interview, Giuliani reiterated his assertion that it did not amount to a campaign-finance violation – and he shared details of the payments from Trump to Cohen, saying "we have all the documentary proof for it."

Giuliani told the newspaper that, after the campaign, Trump started paying $35,000 a month out of his "personal family account." Overall, the former mayor told the Times, Trump had paid Cohen $460,000 or $470,000, which included "incidental expenses."

Giuliani also told the Times that he had spoken with Trump before and after his interview with Hannity. The president and other lawyers on the team knew what he would tell the Fox News host, he added.

Trump said last month that he didn't know about Cohen's payment to Daniels. Cohen has previously maintained that he made the payment himself, and with his own funds.

Giuliani told Hannity that the payment "is going to turn out to be perfectly legal."

"That money was not campaign money. Sorry, I'm giving you a fact now that you don't know. It's not campaign money. No campaign finance violation," Giuliani said.

On April 5, Trump, in one of his few public statements about Daniels, denied knowledge of the payment.

But Giuliani said Wednesday night only that Trump did not know "the specifics."

Asked by Hannity whether Trump knew about the payment, Giuliani said Trump "didn't know about the specifics of it, as far as I know."

But, Giuliani added: "He did know about the general arrangement that Michael would take care of things like this."

In a later exchange, Giuliani said that the money "that was paid by his lawyer [Cohen], the president reimbursed that over the period of several months."

But in a Wall Street Journal interview earlier Wednesday, Giuliani reportedly said Trump was "probably not aware" of the payment at the time it was made in October 2016.

"Remember October 2016, hardly will recall any of that in detail. I don't remember it clearly either," he told the newspaper.

Why Comey was fired

Giuliani turned heads earlier in the lengthy television interview, when he said Trump's motive for firing FBI Director James Comey was that Comey would not say that he wasn't a target of an FBI investigation.

"He fired Comey because Comey would not – among other things – say that he wasn't a target of the investigation," Giuliani said.

Trump, Giuliani he added, "is entitled that. Hillary Clinton got that and he couldn't get that. He fired him and he said, 'I'm free of this guy.'"

The White House has said Trump fired Comey over his handling of the investigations into Clinton during the campaign.

But in an interview with NBC News' Lester Holt in May 2017, Trump said, "When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, 'You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.'"

White House lawyer Ty Cobb and a White House spokeswoman did not immediately respond to CNBC's request for comment. Neither Cohen nor one of his lawyers immediately responded to CNBC's requests for comment.

—CNBC's Mike Calia, Christina Wilkie and Brian Schwartz contributed to this report.