President Donald Trump and his aides are “panicking,” the attorney for porn actress Stormy Daniels said Thursday afternoon, and are “just making it up as they go along” as they deal with Trump’s mounting legal challenges.
Rudy Giuliani, who joined the president’s legal team last month, disclosed Wednesday that the president had repaid his longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen over the course of last year for a $130,000 payment made to Daniels as part of a nondisclosure agreement related to an alleged sexual affair with Trump.
That statement ran counter to Trump's comment last month that he did not know about the payment, and to Cohen's claim that he was never reimbursed for it.
“I had a lot of respect for Rudy Giuliani, you know, 15, 16 years ago. I thought that the way that he handled 9/11 was admirable but he is well past his prime. He's no longer ready for primetime, clearly, as the last 24 hours dictates,” Daniels’ attorney, Michael Avenatti, told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell. “It is clear as day that the White House is panicking and they should be panicking because they have been caught in a series of very serious lies about what happened here. I mean, these guys make the Watergate burglars look competent, quite frankly.”
Giuliani, in interviews Thursday morning on both Fox News and Fox Business Network, suggested Daniels’ lawsuits against the president — one to void their nondisclosure agreement and another for defamation — amounted to an effort to shake down the president. He called Daniels’ lawyer an “ambulance chaser,” to which Avenatti replied, “The only ambulance I've ever chased in my career is the one that he's driving now in an attempt to save this presidency, and I think it's going to be DOA.”
Avenatti predicted that the new disclosures from Giuliani could further legal issues for Trump’s aides and other allies, including money laundering, bank fraud and campaign finance violations. The payment to Daniels is reportedly already the subject of a federal investigation after the FBI executed a search warrant from the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York against Cohen’s office and residences.
The payment to Daniels, which was made in October 2016 and was not reported to the Federal Election Commission, could represent a violation of campaign finance laws if it was made to protect the Trump campaign from political damage. Giuliani has argued that the payment was made for personal reasons, to shield the Trump family from allegations that he insisted are false but could have been damaging nonetheless.
Avenatti said Trump’s tweet Thursday morning, in which the president declared that Cohen’s payment to Daniels was within the law because it did not come from campaign funds, might prompt him and his client to add to their defamation lawsuit against the president, which was filed earlier this week and based on a past Twitter post. Trump’s Thursday morning messages, Avenatti said, “were written by a lawyer, although not a very smart lawyer,” because of the spelling and grammar mistakes.
Giuliani, too, has put forth the argument during his recent string of media appearances that because the reimbursement for Cohen did not come from Trump campaign funds, there is nothing improper about them. Avenatti told MSNBC that that argument does not hold water.
“He seems to believe that if campaign donations were not used to pay $130,000, that that ends the inquiry, that that's the only way there could be criminal liability relating to campaign finance law,” he said. “That's just simply not the law. I mean, that's inaccurate. I don't know if he's forgotten campaign finance law or if he ever knew it to begin with, but he doesn't know what he's talking about.”