You’re probably seeing a lot of news this morning about Rudy Giuliani’s interview with Sean Hannity last night, and Donald Trump’s follow-up tweets this morning. Let’s break this down, OK?
There were more than a few missteps in Giuliani’s interview last night, but let’s keep it focused on Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels. In the interview, Giuliani stated that Cohen did pay Stormy Daniels $130,000 (which we all knew), and that Trump did pay him back.
OK, on the surface, this shows that Trump and the Press Secretary repeatedly lied when they said that Trump did not know about the Michael Cohen payment to Stormy Daniels. But, we all knew that, except those hopeless, delusion Christian women in the base. Trump lies. That’s what he does. Even many of his supporters know that, so I doubt that the fact that he lied is going to change anything.
But where does this get him in trouble? OK, well, if Cohen paid with his own money, then he broke campaign finance laws by a contribution more than the $2,700 allowed. That makes Cohen ripe to flip.
Trump knows that, and he was probably trying to salvage that situation. When Trump said that he knew nothing about the payment before, it looked like he was hanging Cohen out to dry with those campaign finance violations. However, in the wake of the raid on Cohen’s office — and the fear that Trump must feel that Cohen will turn on him — he probably decided to come clean and at least admit that he knew about the payment and spare Cohen that campaign finance violation.
The problem is, Giuliani said that Trump paid Cohen back in “installments” that was “funneled through a law firm,” which sounds a lot like what put Dennis Hastert in prison (making smaller payments to avoid disclosure laws). That could also put Trump in prison.
This morning, clearly with the advice of an attorney (one far more competent than Giuliani), Trump tried to clarify and reframe and save his ass.
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…..— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 3, 2018
…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). The agreement was used to stop the false and extortionist accusations made by her about an affair,……— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 3, 2018
…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 in this transaction.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 3, 2018
OK, well, that’s not how you spell “role” in this scenario, but whatever. Trump is basically saying that 1) he didn’t have an affair; 2) that Stormy Daniels tried to extort him; and 3) Cohen “fixed” the situation, and used the proceeds from his retainer to pay Daniels.
This all contradicts Michael Cohen, according to a WSJ article last month:
Mr. Cohen said he missed two deadlines earlier that month to make the $130,000 payment to Ms. Clifford because he couldn’t reach Mr. Trump in the hectic final days of the presidential campaign, the person said.
Ms. Clifford was owed the money in return for signing an agreement that bars her from discussing an alleged sexual encounter with Mr. Trump in 2006, people familiar with the matter said.
After Mr. Trump’s victory, Mr. Cohen complained to friends that he had yet to be reimbursed for the payment to Ms. Clifford, the people said.
So, Cohen was saying he was never paid; Giuliani said that he was paid in “installments funneled through a law firm,” and Trump says that he was paid via his retainer, which must have been a very large retainer to cover $130,000, which is odd since Cohen does very little legal business for Trump and, in fact, according to Trump, only handled that “crazy Stormy Daniels deal.”
But then, in the interview with Hannity, Giuliani also stated that there was no political reason to make the payment (it was made to salvage the “reputation” of Trump’s marriage), but then turned right around and gave a political reason: “Imagine if that came out of October 15, 2016, in the middle of the last debate with Hillary Clinton. Cohen made it go away. He did his job.”
Giuliani: "Cohen didn't even ask. Cohen made it go away. He didn't even ask."— Abby D. Phillip (@abbydphillip) May 3, 2018
Making that payment for a political reason makes it a crime, and that’s not just a “political reason,” it also sounds like Cohen made Daniels sign an NDA without Trump’s knowledge, which would not only render the NDA void, but it would mean that Cohen committed fraud. Also, that the NDA is not in full force and effect.
So what’s the truth? Someone has to be lying. And that’s the clincher! The FBI conducted a raid on Cohen’s office. They have Michael Cohen’s records. It doesn’t matter what ass-saving cover story Trump or Cohen or Giuliani offers. Ultimately, authorities in the Southern District of New York are going to look through the documents and the emails and the wire transfers, and they’re going to know the truth, if they don’t know it already. That evidence is going to be compared with the statements those three men made. At least two of them are lying — probably all three — which prosecutors will learn when they question them under oath.
All of which is to say: Someone is going to prison, and I dare Trump to try and pardon Michael Cohen for making an illegal contribution to his own campaign.
Meanwhile, Emmett T. Flood, who joined the Trump legal team yesterday, is probably reconsidering that decision. It’s like a clown car being directed through traffic by Keystone Cops.