Rudy’s Stormy exposé, confirmed!
Rudy Giuliani is representing Donald Trump for free. It looked Wednesday night like Trump was getting his money’s worth, at least at first blush.
After a day of interviews saying why Trump, not former FBI Director James Comey, should be believed in the Russia investigation, Giuliani unmasked Trump as a liar in the Stormy Daniels case.
Appearing on Fox News Channel’s “Hannity” show, Giuliani said that Trump reimbursed his personal lawyer Michael Cohen for the $130,000 he put out for a hush-money payment to Daniels so she woudn’t talk about the sex fling she had with Trump.
“I’m giving you a fact that you don’t know,” the former New York mayor, who recently joined the president’s legal team, told host Sean Hannity. “It’s not campaign money. No campaign finance violation. They funneled through a law firm and the president repaid it.”
Not only that, but Trump in his deflective style added early Thursday that what he now concedes he funded amounted to "extortion."
WIth that reversal out of the bag, Trump dug himself in deeper with a whole new and complicated account of his Stormy problem, seemingly designed to blunt only the allegation that he misused campaign funds. Here's the text of three tweets early Thursday for which the blurter-in-chief sounds like he had some help:
"Mr. Cohen, an attorney, received a monthly retainer, not from the campaign and having nothing to do with the campaign, from which he entered into, through reimbursement, a private contract between two parties, known as a non-disclosure agreement, or NDA.
"These agreements are very common among celebrities and people of wealth. In this case it is in full force and effect and will be used in Arbitration for damages against Ms. Clifford (Daniels).
"The agreement was used to stop the false and extortionist accusations made by her about an affair despite already having signed a detailed letter admitting that there was no affair. Prior to its violation by Ms. Clifford and her attorney, this was a private agreement. Money from the campaign, or campaign contributions, played no roll in this transaction."
Campaign finance violation or not, that's not what Trump has been saying. He has told reporters he didn’t know about the payment, while Cohen has been evasive on whether he ever got the money back.
Daniels has sued Cohen and Trump to nullify the agreement and for defamation. The Daniels payment is a factor in the investigation of Cohen by the Manhattan U.S. attorney.
If Giuliani or Trump think they've made Trump’s problems less complicated, Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti, begs to differ.
“I am stunned and speechless. If this is accurate, the American people have been lied to and deceived for months. And justice must be served,” Avenatti said.
During a campaign debate, Trump boasted about how he doesn't settle lawsuits against him.
"I don’t settle cases," he said in discussing the Trump University fraud, which he later settled. "I don’t do it because that’s why I don’t get sued very often, because I don’t settle, unlike a lot of other people."
The Trump grill menu
Trump earlier raged on Twitter about his presidential power to fire anyone and the “setup & trap” plot by witch hunters. While he did so, Giuliani tried to sell the case to limit special counsel Robert Mueller’s questioning of the president.
“We would be inclined to do it,” said Giuliani. But “some people have talked about a possible 12-hour interview. ... That’s not going to happen, I’ll tell you that. It’d be, max, two to three hours around a narrow set of questions.”
Trump’s team wants to know in advance what evidence Mueller has, and whether the special counsel believes former FBI Director James Comey’s account of his Trump conversations — a key to whether there is an obstruction-of-justice case for trying to quash the Russia investigation.
If Mueller has concluded Comey is telling the truth, Giuliani said, “then we would just be leading him [Trump] into the lion’s den.”
There was no public response from Mueller, who reportedly has warned he could subpoena Trump to testify.
Make him talk?
While the Supreme Court has never definitively ruled on whether a president could be forced to testify, past decisions suggest the answer is yes, according to The Associated Press.
During the Watergate scandal in 1974, justices held unanimously that a president could be compelled to comply with a subpoena for tapes and documents. After the ruling, President Richard Nixon surrendered the material to prosecutors and then resigned.
Twenty-three years later, the court allowed Paula Jones’ sexual harassment suit against President Bill Clinton to go forward. Justice John Paul Stevens wrote that presidents have given testimony and produced documents often enough, so “such interactions ... can scarcely be thought a novelty.”
Trump pointed out in Wednesday’s tweets that he’s very busy: “With North Korea, China, the Middle East and so much more, there is not much time to be thinking about this,” he said. He didn’t mention his golfing time, but that too.
Way back on March 11 — well, not so long ago — Trump decried a “false” New York Times story that he was considering adding Emmet Flood to his legal team. “Wrong. I am VERY happy with my lawyers, John Dowd, Ty Cobb and Jay Sekulow,” he tweeted.
Dowd quit March 22 because Trump wouldn’t take his advice. Now Cobb has resigned as a White House lawyer, and Flood — a veteran of former President Bill Clinton’s impeachment legal team — has come aboard.
Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders described Cobb’s departure as a planned retirement. But Giuliani grabbed the wheel of the bus and ran over that graceful exit attempt.
“Jay [Sekulow] felt that he needed someone that was more aggressive,” Giuliani said. “That’s not a criticism of Ty, but it’s just about how we’re going to do this.”
Not a criticism. Got it. See Newsday’s story by Laura Figueroa Hernandez.
Fire, fury and so on
Trump’s firing tweet wasn’t aimed at Mueller — not this time. It was a pushback at Mueller for wanting to ask the president about canning Comey.
Trump cited recent comments by conservative lawyer Joseph diGenova (hired and unhired by Trump in March in under a week) that such questions would intrude on the president’s constitutional power to fire any executive branch employees.
The president Wednesday also threatened to step in to a dispute between the Justice Department and pro-Trump House members who are demanding Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein hand over documents related to Mueller’s investigation.
In its refusal, Justice cited “long-standing principles of investigatory independence.” Trump tweeted that it’s a “Rigged System” and warned: “At some point I will have no choice but to use the powers granted to the presidency and get involved!”
Bawdy — are there tapes?
Summer Zervos — the former “Apprentice” contestant who accused Trump of sexual assault and is suing him for defamation — is seeking privately held recordings made during production of the reality show that could help her case.
A lawyer for Zervos said a subpoena had been issued to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which owns the “Apprentice” archives. It seeks all documents, video or audio of Trump talking about Zervos and any recording in which Trump speaks of women in “any sexual or inappropriate manner.”
After Trump’s infamous “Access Hollywood” tape came out during 2016 campaign, there were calls for the release of any “Apprentice” recordings with similarly vulgar comments, but they were rebuffed. Resisting subpoenas may not be so easy.
Don’t ask for a reference, Rex
Trump took a short ride over to the State Department to ceremonially swear in Secretary Mike Pompeo, and take an implicit dig at Pompeo’s predecessors, including Rex Tillerson, who was sent packing in March.
Acknowledging applause as he began to speak, Trump said, “I must say that’s more spirit than I’ve heard from the State Department in a long time, many years. We can say many years, maybe many decades.”
Depending on how far back he meant, the spirit-sparse secretaries included John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell and Madeleine Albright. Of that group, only Rice has a cordial relationship with Trump.
A duck, no ‘quack’
The White House has denied several requests for comment on statements by Trump’s estranged personal physician, Dr. Harold Bornstein, that the then-candidate personally dictated the doctor’s 2015 letter touting Trump’s “extraordinary” physical strength and stamina, The Washington Post reported.
Some White House officials weighed pushing back on Bornstein by essentially painting him as loony, one official told the Post. But aides ultimately abandoned that argument since Trump had been a willing patient of Bornstein’s for more than three decades.
What else is happening
- The White House is considering several candidates to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs after White House physician Ronny Jackson bowed out, The Associated Press reports. They include former Florida Rep. Jeff Miller, a Republican who once led the House Veterans Affairs Committee.
- The Justice Department is sending 53 federal prosecutors and immigration judges to the Southwest border to deal with a backlog of cases worsened by the recent arrival of a so-called “caravan” of Central Americans. Trump has accused the migrants of “openly defying our border.”
- It’s a milestone for mendacity. According to The Washington Post’s Fact Checker database, Trump has made 3,001 false or misleading claims in the 466 days since he took office.
- Melania Trump’s parents showed up with their immigration attorney at a Manhattan federal building Tuesday. The lawyer would not comment on whether the first lady’s parents, Viktor and Amalija Knavs, are seeking citizenship, People reported.
- Ukraine was once eager to help Mueller’s investigation. Now, not so much. Ukraine wanted anti-tank missiles from the U.S., and as a member of parliament, Volodymyr Ariev, put it to The New York Times, “In every possible way, we will avoid irritating the top American officials.”
- Michael Caputo, a former Trump campaign aide, met with Mueller’s investigators Wednesday and told CNN afterward: “It’s clear they are still really focused on Russia collusion. ... They know more about the Trump campaign than anyone who ever worked there.”