Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani embarked on a media blitz starting Wednesday night to tamp down speculation that a $130,000 "hush money" payment from President Donald Trump's personal attorney to porn star Stormy Daniels could be considered a campaign finance violation.
Instead, the newly minted member of Trump's legal team set off a media furor by revealing that Trump himself had repaid attorney Michael Cohen for the arrangement. Trump previously denied any knowledge of the payment.
Below are key quotes from Giuliani's multiple interviews.
Wednesday, 9 p.m. ET
Giuliani appears on Fox News for an interview with Sean Hannity.
On Trump’s reimbursement of Cohen: “Having something to do with paying some Stormy Daniels woman $130,000, which, I mean, is going to turn out to be perfectly legal. That money was not campaign money. Sorry. I'm giving you a fact now that you don't know. It's not campaign money. No campaign finance violation. … They funneled through a law firm and the president repaid it. … Everybody was nervous about this from the very beginning. I wasn’t. I knew how much money Donald Trump put into that campaign. I said, ‘$130,000?’ You're going to do a couple of checks for $130,000. When I heard Cohen's retainer of $35,000, when he was doing no work for the president, I said, ‘Well that’s how he’s repaying it — with a little profit and a little margin for paying taxes for Michael.”
On how much the president knew about Cohen’s payment to Daniels: “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, like I take care of things like this for my clients. I don't burden them with every single thing that comes along. These are busy people.”
On potential campaign finance violations: “I was talking about the $130,000 payment. The settlement payment. Which is a very regular thing for lawyers to do. The question there was, the only possible violation there would be, ‘Was it a campaign finance violation?’ Which usually would result in a fine, by the way — Not this big stormtroopers coming in and breaking down his apartment and breaking down his office. 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. The president reimbursed that over the period of several months.”
On whether Cohen acted alone: “I don't know, I haven't investigated that, no reason to dispute that, no reason to dispute his recollection. I like Michael a lot, you like Michael a lot. I feel very bad he's been victimized like this. The president feels even worse. The fact is, just trust me they're going to come up with no violations there. … The payments are perfectly legal. … All documented.”
Late Wednesday evening
Giuliani participates in an interview with The Washington Post.
On when the president was told about the payments: “He wasn’t since it was somewhere between 10 and five days before the election. And he wasn’t told. But even if he was told, he wouldn’t have remembered it, like I wouldn’t have remembered it. When, when he paid out of his own personal funds — and if you listen to Cohen’s statement, it was very careful, he said, ‘I wasn’t paid from the campaign and I wasn’t paid from the Trump Organization.’ Absolutely true. He was paid by Donald Trump’s personal funds. And he was paid out of personal funds, which covered that, and possibly a few other things that, you know, would be considered incidental. This is not the kind of money that you would absolutely think of as the settlement of some kind of substantial case. It’d be more the kind of money that you’d think of to be used to pay for a harassment case, which is the way they always thought of this. They never thought of it as true. And I don’t think it’s true. And I’m absolutely positive it’s not true.”
On when the payments were made: “Well, the original payment from Cohen was sometime right before the election. The repayments took place over a period of time, probably in 2017, probably all paid back by the end of 2017. That and probably a few other situations that might have been considered campaign expenses.”
On how the payments were were structured: “Don’t know. Don’t know. Actually, I think probably in 2018. They were paid in the personal funds because they never considered this a campaign payment. This was considered more a harassment case.”
On when Trump first learned Cohen made the payment to Daniels on Trump’s behalf: “I don’t know if he distinguished it from other things Cohen might have done for him during the campaign. I don’t know that; I don’t know that he distinguished it from other expenses that Cohen had for which he had to be reimbursed. He trusted Michael and Michael trusted him. Michael knew when he laid out the $135,000 he’d get it back and the president was always going to make sure he got it back — and enough money to pay the taxes.”
On when the president realized the payments to Cohen were going to Daniels: “Don’t know that. Probably now, when I told him.”
On how many payments it took Trump to reimburse Cohen: “Do the arithmetic, right? $35,000 a month, probably starting in January or February. By the time you get to $250,000, it’s all paid off. Remember, he also paid for the taxes. Then there probably were other things of a personal nature that Michael took care of, for which the president would have always trusted him as his lawyer, as my clients do with me. And that was paid back out of the rest of the money. And Michael earned a fee out of it.”
On whether cloaking Trump’s payments as retainers creates a legal risk: "No, I don’t think so. A retainer can be used by a lawyer for many purposes. I don’t even know if Michael used some of Trump’s money beforehand to pay. I can’t tell you that when he made the payment [of $130,000], that some of that wasn’t already out of the money that Donald was paying him then."
On why Giuliani revealed Trump repaid Cohen for the payments: “I want them to know, 'Don’t chase.' We spend so much time chasing windmills here. This is chasing windmills. I also think, personally, neither one of them saw it as a campaign thing; they thought of it as a personal thing. Personal reputation, family, wife, harassment charge. She doesn’t want a lot of money? Pay her. Let her go away. Follow me?”
On whether it is appropriate for special counsel Robert Mueller to ask Trump about Cohen, Daniels and the payments in an interview: “No. That’s not even on the table. But we have got to get this over with all at once. That’s not Mueller’s problem. He punted to the Southern District of New York, but we can’t punt. We’ve got to get it over with. We can’t have the president, you know, sit for an interview and have these other allegations sitting out there unresolved. This could go on for two or three years if we don’t bring it to a head.”
On whether Trump was aware Giuliani would reveal Trump’s reimbursement of Cohen: “Oh, yeah, yeah. Sure, sure. He was well aware that at some point when I saw the opportunity, I was going to get this over with.”
On whether Giuliani thinks he will be fired for revealing the president’s involvement: “No, no, no! I’m not going to get fired (laughs). But if I do, I do. It wouldn’t be the first time it ever happened. But I don’t think so, no. (laughs)”
On whether the president has recently spoken to Cohen: “No. No. No. I don’t think so. I talk to Cohen’s lawyers, Jay [Sekulow] talks to Cohen’s lawyers. But we try to make — both Jay and I know Cohen very well. And we both like him. He trusts us. So, no, he hasn’t been talking to him.”
On whether Trump was aware of Cohen’s payment to Daniels: “He wasn’t. When it was made, he wasn’t aware of it. Was he aware that Michael incurred expenses to help him? Yes. Did he have an arrangement so that Michael knew he’d be reimbursed for it? Yes. Was the president really wise to take it out of personal funds rather than from campaign funds? Thank God he did, [or else] he’d get a campaign finance violation they’d try to drum up into a felony or something. The president is personally protected [audio cut]. Recollection? He never said this to the FBI. He never said it under oath.”
On why Cohen claimed for months that he paid Daniels out of his own pocket: “He did. The original payment was his money. … Is Cohen’s money fungible? Yeah, Trump was paying him a retainer.”
On whether the president regrets his handling of the Daniels payments: “No. I think he’s doubtful that it played out there’s some crime or technical crime because no one really thought about it this way, as a campaign finance violation. It was personal.”
On Trump’s review of Giuliani’s interview with Hannity: “He’s very pleased. … He felt that somebody finally stood up and defended him, particularly with how this investigation is going.”
On who was executing Trump’s payments to Cohen: “It was from his personal finance organization, from his accountant. Whoever pays out his bills. … They weren’t all, totally, for the $135,000. There were probably other expenses mixed up in that. But I don’t think the Cohen-Trump relationship was ever about expenses. Cohen would charge him an amount of money that was more than the expenses and he’d make his profit out of that. What I’m used to is, I spend $100,000 worth of time on a client and I bill him for it. What he did was bill $25,000 a month, make $300,000 a year and maybe $100,000 were expenses and $150,000 was profit. I’m just guessing now: That’s just an example. What the public doesn’t understand is that lawyers have the authorization up to a certain amount to spend money to protect their clients from embarrassment or unjust charges, shakedowns. That’s not uncommon.”
Thursday, 7:30 a.m. ET
Giuliani appears on Fox News for an interview with the hosts of “Fox and Friends.”
On the president’s Thursday morning tweets explaining the payment: “I don't think there is any contradiction of that. That's what I said last night. People were indeed surprised, which is why I think this is a tweet that's very valuable. The president indicates he understood it. He didn't know the details of this until we knew the details of it, which was a couple weeks ago. Maybe not even a couple weeks ago, maybe 10 days ago. Remember, when this came up, October 2016, I was with him day-in and day-out then. I can't remember the details of what happened. I know $135,000 — and I don't want to demean anyone — but $135,000 seems like a lot of money. It's not when you are putting $100 million into your campaign. It isn't pocket change, but it’s pretty close to it at the end.”
On whether Cohen was really reimbursed for the Daniels deal: “He was definitely reimbursed. There is no doubt about it.”
On why Cohen made the payment to Daniels: “First of all, if we had to defend this as not being a campaign contribution, I think we could do that. This is for personal reasons. The president had been hurt personally — not politically, personally — and the first lady by some of the false allegations, that one more false allegation, six years old, I think he was trying to help the family. For that, the man is being treated like some kind of villain. And I think he was just being a good lawyer and a good man. … But it wasn't for the campaign. It was to save not their marriage so much as their reputation.”
On what Daniels was claiming: “She was alleging — although there is the contrary letter that she signed that it never happened — that there was a one-time affair. And I think when Cohen heard $130,000, he said, ‘My God, this is cheap. They come cheap. Let me get the thing signed up and signed off.’ … Don't you think a lot of these people would pay that when they can? I represented — I can't disclose — I represented clients who paid substantially more than that. … If you are wealthy, you are a target. We had a case — very famous person — this woman was a professional. You could do a movie about her. She, as a professional, would hit on rich guys — older ones — and then shake them down for a couple million bucks.”
On the politics behind the payment: “Imagine if that came out on Oct. 15, 2016, in the middle of the last debate with Hillary Clinton … Cohen didn't even ask. Cohen made it go away. He did his job.”
On Daniels' attorney, Michael Avenatti: “It had nothing to do with the campaign. It was a personal matter. It proves that they are stick-up artists. I don't believe he was the attorney back then [when Daniels negotiated the settlement with Cohen]. So [Avenatti] is trying to make up for what he thinks — he's trying to make money. Turned out, when you look at it, they figure they should have gotten a lot more than $135,000. Or it should have been in the seven figures. And this guy wants it. Is he going to give up his one-third of it? I doubt it. He’s going to take his money and jump in the next ambulance.”