What a sense of rumor
As Rudy Giuliani, in his role of Donald Trump’s defender, proclaims the president’s innocence of any wrongdoing, there’s a fundamental reason why it’s hard to take the former New York mayor’s word for it: Even Giuliani doesn’t.
On ABC’s “This Week,” Giuliani was pressed to explain his account to BuzzFeed on how lawyer Michael Cohen — unhappy Trump hadn’t reimbursed him the $130,000 in hush money for porn star Stormy Daniels — won his client’s agreement to pay him back in installments. So that meant Trump knew back then about the Daniels hush money?
“Can’t say that,” Giuliani responded. “At some point, yes, but it could have been recently, it could have been a while back. Those are the facts that we’re still working on and that, you know, may be in a little bit of dispute. This is more rumor than anything else.”
Host George Stephanopoulos pointed out: “You said, as a matter of fact.”
“Well, maybe I did,” Giuliani admitted. “But right now, I’m at the point where I’m learning. And I can’t prove that. I can just say it’s rumored. I can prove it’s rumor.”
The interview continued, and Giuliani came out with another version: There was “a long-standing agreement that Michael Cohen takes care of situations like this, then gets paid for them, sometimes.”
Situations like what?
Asked whether Cohen had made payments to other women on Trump’s behalf, Giuliani said: “I have no knowledge of that, but I would think if it was necessary, yes.”
If Cohen testifies to his full story about the payment, will it match Trump’s story? Giuliani hopes not.
“Look, if it didn’t contradict it at all, then somebody would be lying. ... Of course, there’ll be minor details,” Giuliani said.
Giuliani stood by Trump’s denial of Daniels’ story about a Trump sexual fling, offering the amount of the hush honey — $130,000 — as evidence.
“I never thought $130,000 was a real payment, it’s a nuisance payment,” he said. “When I settle this — when it was real or a real possibility, it’s a couple million dollars, not $130,000.”
Also, it wasn’t an illegal, unreported campaign contribution expense because the payment would have been made even if Trump wasn’t running, and even if it was a campaign contribution, it isn’t a violation because it was reimbursed. That’s what Giuliani said.
Of fools and clients
In the past, Trump has voiced love for the Second Amendment, but disdain for the Fifth. “The mob takes the Fifth Amendment. If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?” he said in 2016.
So would Giuliani rule that out? “How can I ever be confident of that? When I’m facing a situation with the president and all the other lawyers are, in which every lawyer in America thinks he would be a fool to testify,” he said. But Trump still “wants to testify” and “may testify,” Giuliani said.
Giuliani also argued that Trump would not have to comply with a subpoena for testimony from special counsel Robert Mueller. See the story for Newsday by Laura Figueroa Hernandez and David M. Schwartz.
Janison: Taps for Mercer firm
Cambridge Analytica — funded by Long Island billionaire Robert Mercer and guided by ex-Trump aide Steve Bannon — raised its profile with its political data work for Trump’s 2016 campaign.
But this year, the brand became branded over reports of its sleazy methods to blackmail political opponents of its clients and alleged misuse of personal data harvested from Facebook accounts. It went under last week, though its ideological mission may live on in other entities. See Dan Janison’s column for Newsday.
That’s what HE said
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway Sunday presented the president’s current and still murky version of the Trump-Cohen-Daniels transactions in the best possible light, but didn’t go so far as to personally, unconditionally vouch for it.
Asked on CNN’s “State of the Union” if she believed his denial of the sexual relationship with Daniels, Conway said, “I believe — yes, he’s denied it. So, I have no reason to believe otherwise. I don’t know — he has said he hasn’t.”
Spy goes shy
Gina Haspel, Trump’s nominee for CIA director, had to be talked out of withdrawing her nomination as she faces the prospect of a brutal confirmation hearing over her role in harsh interrogations of terror suspects, The Washington Post reported.
Senior White House aides including legislative affairs head Marc Short and press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders rushed to CIA headquarters Friday afternoon to urge her to stay. Trump also got involved and pushed for her to continue as the nominee.
What else is happening
- Giuliani took time out from studying up on the Daniels case to deliver a speech Saturday to a pro-democracy Iranian-American group. At one point, Giuliani pretended that his notes were the Iran nuclear deal, mimed ripping them up and spat on them, Politico reported. (See it at the 6:50 mark of this video.)
- Daniels played herself in the opening sketch of the latest “Saturday Night Live.” When Alec Baldwin as Trump asked her “What do you need for this to all go away?” Daniels answered “A resignation.” (Click here for video).
- A special immigration program for 57,000 Honduran refugees who legally lived and worked in the U.S. for two decades has ended at the administration's behest. Those affected have 18 months to leave the country.
- Melania Trump follows a remarkably separate daily routine from the president and has noticeably begun to raise her profile, independent from his, since stories broke in recent months on his alleged affairs, according to a Washington Post profile.
- Trump’s remarks in an NRA convention speech blaming strict gun laws for knife violence in Britain and the death toll from 2015 terror attacks in France provoked angry reactions in both countries.
- Donald Blankenship, the convicted former coal baron running for a Republican Senate nomination in West Virginia, "can't win" the general election, Trump tweeted, so state GOP voters should support one of two other candidate.
- UN Ambassador Nikki Haley voiced her loyalty to Trump in a “CBS Sunday Morning” profile. She also said: “He has his communication style, but you’re not hearing me defend that. What I will tell you is, if there is anything that he communicates in a way that I’m uncomfortable with, I pick up the phone and call him.”
- Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has raised ethical concerns by appearing in Chinese-language interviews with her father, a shipping magnate, Politico reports. Federal officials are banned from using their offices for the private gain of family.
- Trump blamed Democrats again for the ongoing Russia probe in opaque tweets devoid of factual support or explanation.