White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders faced a barrage questions after the revelation that President Donald Trump reimbursed his attorney Michael Cohen for a $130,000 payment to porn star Stormy Daniels. Sanders claimed that Trump didn’t know about it “at the time, but eventually learned.”
What is unclear is when, exactly, Trump learned of the payment and the reimbursement, having denied knowledge of it to reporters about a month ago. Trump’s new attorney, Rudy Giuliani revealed in an interview on Fox News’s “Hannity” with Sean Hannity on Wednesday that the reimbursement was made to Cohen. The payment was part of a non-disclosure settlement with Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, about an alleged affair with Trump in 2006.
Zeke Miller, White House reporter for the Associated Press, asked Sanders at the daily briefing why the president was “not truthful with the American people” when he denied knowledge of the payment.
“This was information that the president didn’t know at the time, but eventually learned,” Sanders told reporters at the White House briefing.
Sanders said that she didn’t learn about the reimbursement until Giuliani’s “Hannity” interview. She also said that she has given “the best information I had at the time” when she denied that Trump was aware of the payment on March 7.
Giuliani’s revelation has raised further questions of whether Cohen’s payment and Trump’s reimbursement conformed with campaign finance laws, as the agreement with Daniels came in the waning days of the presidential election. Election law experts have said that the payment could be considered a campaign contribution if it was used with the intent of preventing an adverse impact on the Trump presidential campaign.
On “Hannity,” Giuliani said that the money was not “campaign money” and that there was no “campaign finance violation.”
“When I heard of Cohen’s retainer for $130,000, he was doing no work for the president,” Giuliani said. “I said, ‘Well, that’s how he’s repaying it, with a little profit and a little margin for paying taxes for Michael.”
He said that Trump “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 this with my clients. I don’t burden them with every single thing that comes along.”
Trump himself tweeted about the payment, writing, “Mr. Cohen, an attorney, received a monthly retainer, not from the campaign and having nothing to do with the campaign, from which he entered into, through reimbursement, a private contract between two parties, known as a non-disclosure agreement, or NDA.”
“These agreements are very common among celebrities and people of wealth. In this case it is in full force and effect and will be used in Arbitration for damages against Ms. Clifford [Daniels],” he continued. “The agreement was used to stop the false and extortionist accusations made by her about an affair despite already having signed a detailed letter admitting that there was no affair.
“Prior to its violation by Ms. Clifford and her attorney, this was a private agreement. Money from the campaign, or campaign contributions, played no roll [sic] in this transaction,” Trump concluded.