Stormy Daniels speaks to members of the media while attorney Michael Avenatti listens outside Federal Court in New York. (Photographer: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg)

Giuliani Pivots to Call Hush Money Unrelated to Trump's Campaign

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani said hush money paid to a porn actress during the 2016 election didn’t violate campaign finance laws, seeking to clarify comments he made earlier in the week.

“There is no campaign violation,” Giuliani said in a statement on Friday. “The payment was made to resolve a personal and false allegation in order to protect the President’s family. It would have been done in any event, whether he was a candidate or not.”

Giuliani issued the statement a day after indicating on Fox News’s “Fox and Friends” that Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, paid $130,000 to porn star Stormy Daniels in 2016 to ensure that their alleged affair more than a decade ago didn’t become public during the election.

“Imagine if that came out on October 15, 2016 in the middle of the, you know, last debate with Hillary Clinton,” Giuliani, a former New York mayor, said on the show. “Cohen didn’t even ask. Cohen made it go away. He did his job.”

Giuliani also said that comments he made about “timing” were based on his own understanding of events rather than the president’s knowledge.

Giuliani told the Washington Post on Wednesday that Trump was paying Cohen a retainer of $35,000 per month even though Cohen was doing no legal work. The total, about $460,000, was used to reimburse the Daniels payment and cover other things, he said.

Such an arrangement would appear to be a liability that would normally be reported on a federal financial disclosure report by a new president. Trump didn’t disclose Cohen’s payment on his behalf.

Trump confirmed in a series of tweets Thursday that he had reimbursed his attorney for the payment to Daniels via a “retainer” to stop “false and extortionist accusations” of an affair. The arrangement is “very common among celebrities and people of wealth,” he said in a subsequent message.

Representative Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, wants Congress to investigate whether Trump violated federal ethics laws with the payment. Federal officials, Cummings said in a letter to the panel chairman Friday, must disclose any liability over $10,000 “owed to any creditor at any time during the reporting period,” as well as the “name of the creditors to whom such liabilities are owed.”

Trump didn’t disclose any liabilities to Cohen incurred in 2016 in his financial disclosure form, Cummings said.

Asked last month whether he knew about the payment to Daniels, Trump said “No.’’ Cohen has also said Trump didn’t know about the payment.

Asked if he knew where Cohen got the money for the payment, the president said he didn’t.

“No, I don’t know,’’ Trump told reporters.

In an interview Friday, Giuliani said that Trump didn’t know about the payment at the time it was made.

Cohen’s attorney David Schwartz has repeatedly said that Cohen didn’t receive reimbursement from Trump. He said he was “100 percent” certain that Trump didn’t repay Cohen, and said on NBC last month that Cohen made the payment out of his “love” and “loyalty” to Trump.

Trump told reporters Friday as he boarded Air Force One that he hadn’t altered his account of the payment.

“We’re not changing any story,” Trump said.

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