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Trump tries to calm hush money storm stirred up by Giuliani

President Trump spent much of Friday trying to tamp down a new furor over hush money paid to a porn star. His message: His story has not changed, despite what his lawyer said this week. Yamiche Alcindor joins John Yang for more.

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  • John Yang:

    President Trump spent much of today trying to tamp down a new furor over hush money paid to a porn star.

    His message? Nothing to see here, the story has not changed, despite what his lawyer said.

    White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor begins our coverage.

  • President Donald Trump:

    It's actually very simple, but there has been a lot of misinformation, really.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Outside the White House this morning, the president made a point of stopping to talk about the storm stirred up by his new personal attorney Rudy Giuliani.

  • President Donald Trump:

    He started yesterday. He will get his facts straight. He's a great guy.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    At issue, a $130,000 payment before the 2016 election from longtime Trump attorney Michael Cohen to the porn star known as Stormy Daniels.

    She claims she had an affair with Mr. Trump in 2006. On Wednesday night, Giuliani disclosed for the first time that the president personally reimbursed Cohen.

  • Rudy Giuliani:

    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 a period of several months.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Giuliani insisted Mr. Trump was unaware of the full details of the arrangement until recently. Today, the president wouldn't say when he learned the details, or exactly when he reimbursed Cohen, who's now under federal investigation.

  • President Donald Trump:

    You're going to find out, you know, because we're going to give a full list. And people know. And virtually everything said has been said incorrectly.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Later, Giuliani released a statement intended to clarify his earlier comments.

    Giuliani said his claims that the president learned of the payments recently were based on Giuliani's understanding, and not that of the president's. But he didn't say when the president learned of the payoff to Stormy Daniels or when Cohen was reimbursed.

    Last month, on Air Force One, Mr. Trump denied knowing about the Stormy Daniels payment or where Cohen got the money.

  • President Donald Trump:

    No, I don't know.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Today, as he boarded the presidential plane for Dallas, he denied that he had lied.

  • President Donald Trump:

    We're not changing any stories. All I'm telling you is that this country is that this country right now is running so smooth, and to be bring up that kind of crap and to be bringing up witch-hunts all the time, that's all you want to talk about.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Mr. Trump also said today his lawyers have advised him against an interview with special counsel Robert Mueller in the Russia probe.

  • President Donald Trump:

    Nobody wants to speak more than me, in fact, against my lawyers, because most lawyers say never speak on anything. I would love to speak. If I thought it was fair, I would override my lawyers.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Hours later, the president moved on to gun policy at the National Rifle Association's annual meeting.

  • President Donald Trump:

    Your Second Amendment rights are under siege, but they will never, ever be under siege as long as I am your president.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    It was Mr. Trump's fourth consecutive NRA Convention, and it follows February's mass shooting that killed 17 people at a high school in Parkland, Florida.

  • President Donald Trump:

    We're going to be very strong background checks.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Initially, the president vowed new action on national gun laws. But he has since pulled back. In that almost hour-long speech, President Trump made mention of his past support for some gun law changes. He didn't talk about raising the age of purchase for certain firearms. He also didn't mention expanding background checks.

    John, leaving out these efforts is seen by some as caving into the NRA pressure.

  • John Yang:

    And these were all things that he had supported, the NRA had opposed. Did any of his opposition to NRA positions or differences with the NRA show up in that speech today?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Not at all. This was really a campaign-style speech. He spoke a little about guns, but a lot about the midterms. He talked about the fact that Republicans really need to show out for the elections. He seems really concerned about the fact that Republicans need to win in these states.

    He also said, though, that he did sign a $2 million bill for school funding. He talked a little bit about the changes that he made in background checks. But these are things the NRA actually supported. So, he was not trying at all to pick a fight with the NRA.

    And it made me think about this exchange that I had with a deputy press secretary. During the briefing, I asked, is the president going to back candidates if they go up against the NRA and want stronger gun reform? And that person said, yes, the president is going to cover them. This speech says otherwise.

  • John Yang:

    And let's go back to that little exchange on the White House plan. He said Rudy Giuliani will get his facts straight. Giuliani came out with the clarification.

    What are the people inside the White House telling you? What's going on here?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    My sources tell me that the president was not throwing Rudy under the bus, per se. He said that he was really trying to clarify the timing of this.

    And Giuliani's statement, if you read it really closely, it's about timing and it's about campaign finance laws. Rudy Giuliani wants to make sure that he backtracks on the idea of when President Trump learned about the payment. He said this week that President Trump learned about the reimbursement for Stormy Daniels to Michael Cohen recently, and now Rudy Giuliani is essentially leaving that open and letting it be vague.

    But I should say that one of the first lines of the clarification statement stood out to me.

    He said — and I will read — "There is no campaign violation."

    That's really important because that assertion has not been made. Stormy Daniels' lawyer says that the president was trying to influence the 2016 election with his payment to Stormy Daniels. So, that's still unsettled.

    But Rudy Giuliani wants to make it sure that at least his boss thinks that that's clear.

  • John Yang:

    And then when the president got to Joint Base Andrews, before he got onto Air Force One, there was an interesting scene with John Kelly. What happened?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, the president walked out.

    The chief of staff, this is, of course, someone who, the reports, say called the president an idiot. And he said, look, John Kelly is doing a fantastic job. And then President — and then John Kelly praised the president.

    Listen to what he had to say.

  • John Kelly:

    Well, I would just say it's an absolute privilege to work for a president that has gotten the economy going. We're about to have a breakthrough, I believe, on North Korea. The jobs report today. I mean, everything is going phenomenally well. Attacking the opioid crisis.

    It's nothing less than brilliant, what's been accomplished in 15 months, I believe.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Now, this kind of praise is what Donald Trump likes to see. He loves to hear people talk about how great the country is going.

    But I think this is John Kelly essentially saying, I want to keep my job and, Mr. President, here's all the great things that I can say about you today.

  • John Yang:

    White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor, thanks so much.

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