Rudy Giuliani today defended the payment a lawyer for US President Donald Trump made in 2016 to a porn star who had alleged a relationship with Trump, and said it was possible that that lawyer may have paid off other women as well.
The comment from Giuliani, the former New York Mayor who recently joined Trump's legal team, comes amid an ongoing furore over a string of assertions he has made regarding the 2016 payment to Stormy Daniels, why it was made and how much the president knew about it.
When asked during an interview on ABC News whether Michael Cohen, Trump's personal lawyer, had made payments to other women, Giuliani said he did not know of any but acknowledged that this could have happened.
"I have no knowledge of that," Giuliani said. "But I would think if it was necessary, yes."
Giuliani has given a string of interviews and made a series of public comments in recent days regarding the US$130,000 that Cohen gave to Daniels - who had spoken with journalists about her allegations of a relationship with Trump years earlier - just days before Trump won the presidency in 2016.
He revealed last week that Trump had reimbursed Cohen, a startling announcement that stood in direct contrast to the President's own public claims weeks earlier. After making a series of other remarks to the media - including seemingly connecting the payment to the presidential election - Giuliani then released a cautiously worded statement trying to clean up his comments.
During the interview today during which he also said Trump would not have to comply with a subpoena from the special counsel investigation, Giuliani dismissed the President's comments about the Daniels payment to reporters aboard Air Force One in early April. The President had said he did not know about Cohen's payment or where Cohen got the money.
"The reality is, those are not facts that worry me as a lawyer ... those don't amount to anything, what's said to the press," Giuliani said. "That's political."
Kellyanne Conway, counsellor to Trump, said today that Trump's comments on Air Force One were him saying "he didn't know when the payment occurred."
"I'm going to relay to you what the President has told me, which is the best I can do," Conway said on CNN. "He didn't know it at the time that the payment occurred."
Conway said she has "no reason" not to believe Trump's comments denying the affair, and she denied that the White House has a problem with credibility. The Washington Post's Fact Checker has been tracking Trump's false or misleading public claims in office, and so far, it has found more than 3000 such comments - an average of 6.5 claims per day.
Conway also said she did not know of any other payments made to women during the campaign that were similar to the Daniels transaction, saying "they didn't cross my desk as campaign manager."
In his interview, Giuliani again sought to argue that the payment was not a campaign contribution, saying it was "entirely reimbursed out of personal funds." Experts have said that even if it was not made with campaign money, the timing of it raises questions, as does the fact that it was never revealed in financial disclosure forms.
Giuliani said he did not know the answers to numerous questions, including when Trump learned that Daniels would take money to remain quiet, whether Trump knew about it after the campaign and precisely when Trump found out about the payment.
He said the money was paid "to settle a personal issue that would be embarrassing" to Trump and his wife, and also argued that the amount of money made it seem like more of "a nuisance payment" than anything else.
"I never thought US$130,000 - I know this sounds funny to people there at home," he said. "I never thought US$130,000 was a real payment, it's a nuisance payment. When I settle this, when it was real or a real possibility, it's a couple million dollars, not US$130,000."
Giuliani said that Cohen is no longer Trump's personal lawyer, adding that that would be a conflict. He also said that the possibility of pardoning Cohen - who is facing scrutiny from federal investigators exploring whether he committed bank fraud and wire fraud - has not been raised.
"Michael's lawyers all know that that obviously is not on the table," Giuliani said. "That's not a decision to be made now, there's no reason to pardon anybody now."
Giuliani also spoke critically of Daniels, who made an appearance on Saturday Night Live, something he brought up three times during the interview. He said Daniels "was opportunistic" in seeking money before the election and suggested that she was just seeking "fame and fortune," adding: "She's become rich as a result of this. The US$130,000 doesn't mean anything.
"I do think it's suspect that she waits until the very last minute with regard to the campaign, and where you could get the maximum personal damage against the President," he added.
Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, had told her story to multiple journalists over the years, including reporters from Slate and In Touch magazine, before signing the confidentiality agreement and a statement denying the affair. Daniels said she is being paid more nowadays for doing the same things she was already doing, but she pushed back against the notion that she was happy to be receiving so much notoriety because of Trump.
"This isn't what I want to be known for," Daniels said on The View last month. She said she has had to hire bodyguards, describing the situation as "overwhelming and intimidating and downright scary a lot of the times."
Michael Avenatti, a lawyer for Daniels, appeared on This Week after Giuliani and called the former mayor's comments "a train wreck."
"This guy's all over the map over the last 72 hours on some very simple facts that should be very straightforward," Avenatti said. "I think it is obvious ... to the American people that this is a coverup, that they are making it up as they go along, they don't know what to say because they've lost track of the truth."
Legal experts have said Giuliani's remarks in recent days may have exposed Trump to potential legal risks and could have compromised his lawyer-client privilege with the president.
In his comments, Giuliani appeared to be trying to play down the payment, and he repeatedly argued that it did not amount to a campaign finance violation. A watchdog group filed complaints with the Federal Election Commission and Justice Department, alleging that the Daniels payment violated campaign finance laws.