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The key legal question about the Stormy Daniels payment
For months, President Trump has denied knowing about the payment of Stephanie Clifford, the adult film actress known as Stormy Daniels, by his personal attorney Michael Cohen. But last night, newly hired attorney Rudy Giuliani acknowledged President Trump repaid Cohen, while rejecting any notion that the payments might have violated campaign funding law. Judy Woodruff reports.
The White House finds itself tonight fending off new questions about the adult film star Stormy Daniels, and who paid for her silence.
The questions erupted after a swirl of statements by a member of President Trump's own legal team.
President Donald Trump:
Prayer has always been at the center of American life.
The president marked the National Day of Prayer this morning, amid new disclosures about a payment to an adult film star.
Mr. President, why are you changing your story on Stormy Daniels?
Shame on you.
One of Mr. Trump's personal attorneys, Michael Cohen, has long said he used his own money to pay $130,000 to Stephanie Clifford, known as Stormy Daniels, just before the 2016 election.
Clifford says it was hush money to buy her silence about an alleged sexual affair with Mr. Trump in 2006. The president has denied any relationship, and, for months, he denied knowing about a payment.
Then, last night, newly hired attorney Rudy Giuliani acknowledged President Trump repaid Cohen.
That was money that was paid by his lawyer, the way I would do, out of his law firm funds or whatever funds — it doesn't matter — and the president reimbursed that over the period of several months.
Appearing on FOX News's "Hannity," Giuliani maintained the president was unaware of details of the Stormy Daniels matter until recently.
He didn't know about the specifics of it, as far as I know. But he did know about the general arrangement, that Michael would take care of things like this.
Giuliani told The New York Times that Mr. Trump made a series of payments to Cohen of $35,000 each, totaling as much as $460,000, for what he called incidental expenses. He rejected any notion that the payments might have violated campaign funding law.
That money was not campaign money. Sorry, I am giving you a fact now that you don't know. It is not campaign money. No campaign finance violation.
So, they funneled it through a law firm.
Funneled through a law firm, and then the president repaid it.
The president reinforced the point on Twitter this morning. He said that, "Mr. Cohen, an attorney, received a monthly retainer, not from the campaign and having nothing to do with the campaign. These agreements are very common among celebrities and people of wealth."
Giuliani was back on FOX again early this morning, saying the initial payment to Clifford was made to protect the Trumps from being personally hurt by false allegations. But he later suggested the looming election was a factor.
Imagine if that came out on October 15, 2016, in the middle of the last debate with Hillary Clinton.
So, to make it go away, they made this payment.
Cohen didn't even ask. Cohen didn't — Cohen made it go away.
Still these latest revelations call into question the president's own words aboard Air Force One last month.
Mr. President, did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?
No. No. What else?
Then why did Michael — do you know where he got the money to make that payment?
No, I don't know.
Cohen said in a statement in February that, "Neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms. Clifford, and neither reimbursed me for the payment, either directly or indirectly."
At the time, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders echoed that denial from the White House briefing podium.
There was no knowledge of any payments from the president, and he's denied all of these allegations.
Today, Sanders faced a new barrage of questions.
As Mayor Giuliani stated, this wasn't something that was initially known, but later learned, and, again, we give the best information possible at the time.
Cohen is now the target of an FBI investigation. Agents raided his home and office last month, reportedly searching for documents on the Clifford payment, among other things.
Clifford is now pursuing her own civil suit against President Trump for defamation.
And we will examine the implications of the Giuliani disclosures after the news summary.
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