Rudy Giuliani contradicts himself on 'Fox & Friends' about Trump camp's payout to Stormy Daniels
Fox News opinion hosts are having a hard time with Giuliani's comments about Trump
Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, now acting as an attorney for President Trump, made shockwaves in the political world Wednesday night by admitting to Fox News host Sean Hannity that the president knew about a $130,000 hush payment to porn star Stormy Daniels.
During the interview, Giuliani told Hannity that the money to repay Trump's embattled lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen had been "funneled… through the law firm and the president repaid it."
On Thursday morning, Trump confirmed on Twitter that he reimbursed Cohen for the payment through a monthly retainer, adding that it "had nothing to do with the campaign."
But minutes later, Giuliani appeared to contradict that during an interview on Fox & Friends, where he explicitly linked Cohen's payment to Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Cliffords, to the 2016 presidential election.
"Imagine if that came out on Oct. 15, 2016 in the middle of the last debate with Hillary Clinton," Giuliani said. "Cohen didn't even ask. Cohen made it go away. He didn't even ask."
Here's a recap of the fallout from Giuliani's comments, the president's tweets and the response from Washington:
3:15 p.m. – Giuliani doesn’t believe Cohen was wiretapped
On Thursday, NBC News reported that federal investigators had wiretapped Cohen's phone lines. But Giuliani told the Daily Beast he doubted the accuracy of the network's report.
"Us lawyers have talked about it, we don't believe it's true," Giuliani told The Daily Beast. "We think it's going to turn out to be untrue because it would be totally illegal. You can't wiretap a lawyer, you certainly can't wiretap his client who's not involved in the investigation."
Giuliani added that, regardless of the truth of the wiretapping report, it would take bad faith on the part of investigators to leak knowledge of it to the press.
"We should find out about this with a notification from the Justice Department, they're wiretapping the [president] of the United States, they're wiretapping a man talking to his lawyer and then they want us to cooperate? We're not suckers," Giuliani said.
3 p.m. – ‘I would always advise against giving false information’
In a combative briefing with reporters, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders denied knowing that Trump had repaid Cohen for a $130,000 hush payment to Daniels until Giuliani revealed it in his interview with Hannity.
"The first awareness I had was during the interview last night," Sanders said.
Sanders acknowledged that she had provided incorrect information to reporters when she claimed in March that the president had no knowledge of any payments.
"I gave you the best information that I had at the time," Sanders said, adding, "I would always advise against giving false information."
1:30 p.m. – NBC News reports Cohen’s phones were wiretapped
Federal investigators wiretapped Cohen's phone lines for weeks leading up to the raids on his offices, hotel room and home, according to NBC News reporters Tom Winter and Julia Ainsley.
According to the report, "at least one phone call between a phone line associated with Cohen and the White House" was intercepted by investigators.
Michael Avenatti, Daniels' attorney, asserted on MSNBC that the wiretaps must have picked up information that Cohen was preparing to destroy documents, hence the raid. He also said he had knowledge that federal investigators also intercepted text messages, but did not provide any proof to back up his assertions.
Giuliani told the Washington Post that if NBC News' reporting was correct, it would be a "mockery" of attorney-client privilege and "government misconduct."
12:30 p.m. – Comey calls out Giuliani
Former FBI director James Comey didn't appreciate Giuliani comparing FBI agents who raided Cohen's office, home and hotel in April to Nazi "stormtroopers."
"I know the New York FBI. There are no 'stormtroopers' there; just a group of people devoted to the rule of law and the truth," Comey wrote on Twitter. "Our country would be better off if our leaders tried to be like them, rather than comparing them to Nazis."
The comments also earned criticism from former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a Trump supporter. Cuccinelli, a former Virginia Republican nominee for governor, told CNN, "I really do not like to see anybody on any side of an argument wander into language of the Nazi Germany era."
Even Cohen himself has praised the FBI agents, calling them "professional, courteous, respectful" in a call to CNN's Don Lemon following the raid.
11:30 a.m. – Pa. Republican calls for hearings on Stormy Daniels
Rep. Charlie Dent (R., Pa.), who is set to resign from Congress this month, is calling for congressional hearings in light of conflicting statements about the $130,000 payout to Daniels.
"If a Democratic president had paid off a porn star to keep quiet while he was president, I suspect we'd have oversight hearings, and I suspect there probably should be some oversight hearings to get to the bottom of that," Dent said on CNN Thursday morning. "If a Democratic president had done this, we'd be waving a bloody shirt right now."
Dent also criticized those who believed Trump's repeated denials that he wasn't aware of the payout to Daniels.
"I don't think there was anybody on the planet who thought that Michael Cohen, out of the goodness of his heart, wrote a $130,000 check to Stormy Daniels without seeking reimbursement," Dent said. "I mean, come on! We're not fools here."
10:30 a.m. – Giuliani also called Jared Kushner ‘disposable’
Overlooked in the aftermath of Giuliani's interviews with Fox News and the Washington Post were comments he made to Hannity about the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
Discussing the potential reach of Mueller's probe, Giuliani said it would cross the line for the special prosecutor to go after first daughter Ivanka Trump, despite the fact she holds an official position within the White House.
"Jared is a fine man, you know that," Giuliani said Thursday night. "Men are disposable. But a fine woman like Ivanka? Come on."
New York Times White House reporter Maggie Haberman wrote on Twitter that most in the White House were "gobsmacked" by Giuliani's comment.
10:15 a.m. – Giuliani suggests Trump made other similar payouts
Following his interview Thursday night with Hannity, Giuliani conducted a phone interview with Washington Post reporter Robert Costa, in which he suggested that Trump might have made other payouts similar to the $130,000 paid to Daniels to silence her allegations of an affair.
Asked by Costa when the payments were made, Giuliani said they took place sometime right before the election, and that they were probably all paid back by the end of 2017.
"That and probably a few other situations that might have been considered campaign expenses," Giuliani said.
Giuliani also claimed Trump wasn't told about the payments, since the election was just five to 10 days away. But he added, "But even if he was told, he wouldn't have remembered it, like I wouldn't have remembered it."
10 a.m. – Kellyanne Conway’s husband thinks payment was likely illegal
George Conway, a lawyer and the husband of White House counselor and South Jersey native Kellyanne Conway, took to Twitter to contradict Giuliani's claim that the $130,000 payout to Daniels didn't violate campaign finance laws.
Following Giuliani's interview on Fox & Friends Thursday morning, where he explicitly linked the payout to the 2016 presidential election, Conway tweeted a link to the Federal Election Commissions' website, suggesting that the payout likely did violate the law.
9:45 a.m. – Fox News is having a hard time with Giuliani’s comments
The opinion hosts on Fox News have been among Trump's most ardent supporters. But even they are having a hard time grappling with Giuliani's revelation that the president in fact knew about the payout to Daniels.
During his first interview on Fox News Wednesday night, Giuliani appeared to take Hannity by surprise when he revealed the payments to Cohen were funneled through a law firm, and that Trump repaid it.
"Oh, I didn't know he did," a confused Hannity quietly replied.
Hannity's colleague, Ingraham Angle host Laura Ingraham, was baffled by Giuliani's admission, calling the conflicting statements with the Trump administration "a problem"
"You have the president on tape on Air Force One saying he did not know about the payment, and you'll have to ask Michael Cohen about that," Ingraham said. "Rudy just goes on with Hannity and says 'Oh no, he reimbursed them.'"
Ingraham added: "I love Rudy, but they better have an explanation for that. That's a problem."
Even the hosts on Fox & Friends, who have been among the most consistent Trump supporters in the media, grilled Giuliani about what appeared to be a clear contradiction to what the president himself has claimed.
Co-host Ainsley Earhardt pressed Giuliani on previous comments made by Cohen, where he denied being paid back by Trump for the Daniels' payout.
"Now it sounds like the story's changing," Earhardt said.
"He was definitely reimbursed, there's no doubt about that," Giuliani responded.
"So why did he say he wasn't?" Earhardt pressed.
Giuliani refused to answer Earhardt's question, instead pivoting to defend Cohen's actions as "helping the family" and claiming for that, "he's being treated as a villain."
9:20 a.m. – Sarah Huckabee Sanders refuses to answer questions
In the wake of Giuliani's comments on Fox News, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders refused to answer questions Thursday morning about false statements made about the Daniels case.
Back on March 7, Sanders told reporters during a White House press briefing that Trump didn't know about the $130,000 payment to Daniels to silence allegations of an affair with the president, echoing comments Trump himself had made aboard Air Force One.
"I've had conversations with the president about this. There was no knowledge of any payments from the president and he's denied all of these allegations," Sanders said at the time.
9 a.m. – Fox News analyst says explanation is “unworthy of belief”
Fox News judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano slammed Giuliani over a different aspect of his interview with Hannity — the idea that special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election should be shut down due to corruption at the Justice Department.
"There are 90,000 people that work in the Justice Department. There are 8,000 FBI agents. These people are doing the work of protecting our lives, our liberty, and our property," Napolitano said on Fox & Friends. "For him to say that the Justice Department is out of control or that the government is corrupt, is an argument that's going to be used by criminal defense lawyers in legitimate prosecutions as if to say, 'don't believe the government anymore!' "
Napolitano also mocked Giuliani's suggestion that Trump had reimbursed Cohen without knowing it was due to the payout to Daniels.
"If Rudy wants the public to believe that Donald Trump reimbursed Michael Cohen $130,000 and didn't know what it was for, didn't know that it was going to silence Stormy Daniels, that is unworthy of belief," Napolitano said.