Rudy Giuliani's truth bomb
Bless you, Rudy Giuliani, you glorious fool.
This is where we are: When one of the president's lawyers tells the truth, it's blockbuster news. That's what happened Wednesday night when Giuliani, a relative newcomer to President Trump's ever-rotating legal team, went on Hannity for what should have been another softball interview. To everyone's surprise, Giuliani announced that President Trump reimbursed his attorney Michael Cohen the $130,000 Stephanie Clifford (a.k.a. Stormy Daniels) was paid to keep silent about an affair she says she had with Trump.
Which means that Giuliani admitted that Trump lied about this, the White House lied about it, and Cohen didn't exactly lie about it, but carefully chose his words to fool everyone into thinking something that was false. Good work, Rudy!
Here's what Giuliani told Hannity:
Giuliani: Having something to do with paying some Stormy Daniels woman $130,000? Which, I mean, is going to turn out to be perfectly legal. That money was not campaign money. Sorry, I'm giving you a fact now that you don't know. It's not campaign money. No campaign finance violation.
Hannity: They funneled it through a law firm.
Giuliani: They funneled through a law firm, and the president repaid it.
Hannity: Oh. I didn't know that. He did.
Just last month, the president was asked if he knew that Cohen made the payment to Daniels. He said, "No." Asked if he knew where Cohen got the money to make the payment, Trump responded, "No, I don't know."
So that was a lie. But that's not all. Trump also sent out his spokespeople to lie on his behalf. For instance, on March 7, Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters, "there was no knowledge of any payments from the president, and he's denied all of these allegations."
The one person who has been careful about exactly which words they use is Michael Cohen — the guy most likely to wind up behind bars when this is all over, for reasons both related and unrelated. In a statement he released in February, Cohen said, "In a private transaction in 2016, I used my own personal funds to facilitate a payment of $130,000 to Ms. Stephanie Clifford. Neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms. Clifford, and neither reimbursed me for the payment, either directly or indirectly." That word "facilitate" was a red flag that it wasn't his money, as was the fact that he mentioned the campaign and the Trump Organization, but not Donald Trump personally. Yet in short order, everyone started saying Cohen "paid Daniels out of his own pocket," no doubt just as Cohen and Trump would have preferred.
Now we know that wasn't true, and incredibly, this morning Giuliani went back on Fox and made things even worse. Keep in mind that his argument that there was "no campaign finance violation" if Trump reimbursed Cohen is not actually true. It would mean only that Cohen didn't commit a violation, because he didn't give an illegal in-kind contribution to the Trump campaign by silencing Stormy Daniels just weeks before the election. But that doesn't let Trump himself off the hook. In fact, it does just the opposite.
Like all candidates, Trump was free to spend as much as he wants on his campaign. But any contributions — direct or in the form of hush money to porn stars — have to be reported to the Federal Election Commission. The Daniels payment wasn't, which means Trump could be guilty of violating election laws.
Nevertheless, the Trump camp's position up until now has been that the hush money had absolutely nothing to do with Trump's campaign for president; it was sheer coincidence that Cohen made the arrangement with Daniels in October of 2016, and he would have done the same even if Trump had not been running for anything. That was a transparently ridiculous claim, but it's one that was shot down this morning by none other than, you guessed it, Rudy Giuliani, appearing on Fox & Friends. Here's what he said: "Imagine if that came out on Oct. 15, 2016, in the middle of the last debate with Hillary Clinton … Cohen didn't even ask. Cohen made it go away. He did his job."
There you are. And that's even assuming we believe that Cohen didn't inform Trump that he was paying off Daniels, which strains the credulity not only of Trump's opponents but even his allies. Andrew Napolitano, the Fox News personality they call "Judge," said on Fox this morning that "if Rudy wants the public to believe that Donald Trump reimbursed Michael Cohen $130,000 and didn't know what it was for, didn't know that it was going to silence Stormy Daniels, that is unworthy of belief."
All this helps explain why Trump's lawyers keep quitting. Not only is he a difficult client who won't take sensible legal advice, his past and present are littered with legally questionable actions you're going to have to clean up, and chances are that he has lied about them, so you're going to have to deal with that too. You'll have to go on Fox to reassure his supporters that everything is under control, but doing so means that you might wind up digging the hole he's in even deeper.
There's one final and hilarious portion of Giuliani's Fox & Friends interview I haven't mentioned: He said that the time has come for the attorney general to shut down Robert Mueller's out-of-control investigation. "Sessions should step in and close it." Because at this point, how could anyone think Trump or those who work for him could possibly have done anything wrong?