ANALYSIS: Giuliani implicates president violated federal law in admitting Stormy Daniels repayment

On Wednesday evening, former New York mayor and Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani dropped a bombshell: Donald Trump had reimbursed his attorney, Michael Cohen, for the $130,000 hush money payment to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels.

Here’s what we know:

  1. In his interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity, Guiliani stated the money, funneled through a law firm, was perfectly legal and not a violation of campaign finance laws because Trump paid it back using private funds.
  2. This revelation directly contradicted Trump’s statement on Air Force One less than a month prior, in which he indicated he had no knowledge of the payment and statements from the Press Secretary asserting the same.
  3. Giuliani stated that Trump paid Cohen a retainer of $35,000 per month when he was doing little to no work for the president, thus repaying the $130,000 plus profit over time, though he couldn’t specify when the payments began or ended.
  4. Giuliani further asserted that lawyers do work like this without the client’s knowledge all of the time.
  5. In a Wednesday evening interview with the Washington Post, the former U.S. Attorney went on to say that he didn’t believe Mr. Trump knew about the payments until he was told about them recently.
  6. In a New York Times interview, Giuliani stated that, overall, Cohen was paid between $460,000 and $470,000 from Trump’s private funds for reimbursement of incidental expenses.

Not only did these divergences from the previous White House narrative come as a surprise to the interviewers, but apparently were also a surprise to Trump’s legal and communications teams who were left to try to cover for their previous statements that were now being categorized as false and untrue.

On Thursday morning, President Trump took to Twitter and delivered a statement many in the media are describing as “lawyerly” defending his actions and reinforcing Giuliani’s assertions.

It appears as if Trump’s new attorney was attempting to dispel the notion that the Stormy Daniels payment was not in violation of campaign finance laws by releasing the source as being Trump’s personal funds; however, legal analysts do not believe that to be an effective strategy. Attorney George Conway, the husband of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, has been tweeting out sections of U.S. code pertaining to the Federal Election Commission.

According to experts, Trump’s use of his own money to reimburse Cohen for the Daniels’ pay-off does not preclude a violation of campaign finance laws.

To make matters worse, Giuliani went on Fox & Friends Thursday morning and offered this:

“Imagine if that came out on Oct 15, 2016, in the middle of the last debate with Hillary Clinton. . . . Cohen didn’t even ask. Cohen made it go away. He did his job.”

Giuliani virtually obliterated the narrative that the payment was made for personal, not political reasons.

“It was right before the election. Previously, he didn’t make the payoff when it was a mere embarrassment,” said Matthew Sanderson, who was a campaign finance lawyer for the 2008 ­McCain-Palin campaign.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Sanderson said the timing of the payment “strongly suggests it was related to the election, and therefore is either a contribution, or at least a reportable expenditure by the campaign.”

It would seem that this is perhaps the most compelling argument and that Giuliani may have done more harm than good with his press-blitz.

While the entire Trump camp continues to deny the allegations of an affair, at the end of the day, we are still left with numerous questions and inconsistencies, not the least of which is “what did the president know and when did he know it?” — a question which harkens back to Watergate, where the coverup, not the crime, ultimately ended an American presidency.

 

[Fox News] [The Hill] [Washington Post] [New York Times] [Photo courtesy AP]