As yet another bizarre week comes to a close for the president, no one seems to know the reality of what happened between Donald Trump, Stormy Daniels, and Michael Cohen. The only thing that is proven beyond a reasonable doubt is that the White House is lying about it.
This particular drama began Wednesday evening, when Rudy Giuliani, a new addition to the president’s legal team, went on Sean Hannity’s TV show and said that Trump had personally repaid Cohen, his lawyer and sometimes-fixer, for the $130,000 Cohen paid to Daniels as hush money about her alleged affair with Trump some years earlier.
“I’m giving you a fact now that you don’t know,” Giuliani said. “It’s not campaign money. No campaign-finance violation.”
This had the potential to be clever and elegant or else legally suicidal. As my colleague Conor Friedersdorf wrote Thursday morning, there have been many explanations for the money paid to Daniels, but Giuliani’s had the potential to make them all somewhat true. Cohen said he paid Daniels out of pocket, and neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign had reimbursed him, but he didn’t rule out the president personally repaying him.
Meanwhile, the White House said in March it didn’t know of the payment, and in April Trump himself said he didn’t know about the payment. Giuliani had a clever explanation for this, too: Trump really hadn’t known about the payment, and had only learned of it in the last two weeks, as Giuliani told The Washington Post the same night.