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Giuliani clarifies comments about Trump, Stormy Daniels payment

Giuliani's latest statement came after the president said earlier in the day: "He'll get his facts straight."
Image: President Trump Departs The White House En Route To Dallas To Address NRA Conference
President Donald Trump on Friday defended Rudy Giuliani, the latest addition to his legal team, before departing the White House for the weekend. Alex Wong / Getty Images

Rudy Giuliani issued a statement Friday attempting to clarify remarks he'd made in recent days about a $130,000 payment that lawyer Michael Cohen made to porn star Stormy Daniels shortly before the 2016 election.

In his statement, Giuliani, one of President Donald Trump's lawyers, said the payment did not amount to a campaign finance violation because it "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 said of the payment 11 days before the election.

That was an attempt to clean up what Giuliani had said in an interview Thursday on "Fox and Friends," when he suggested Trump could have faced political fallout if Daniels' claim she had an affair with Trump had become public before Election Day — a remark experts told NBC News raised serious questions about whether the unreported payment constituted a campaign finance violation, even if it didn't come from campaign funds.

"Imagine if that came out on Oct. 15, 2016, in the middle of the last debate with Hillary Clinton,” Giuliani said on "Fox and Friends," referring to Daniels' claim that she had a one-night stand with Trump in 2006.

Cohen and Trump aides have denied any affair.

Giuliani also said in his statement Friday that his "references to timing" in media interviews this week were "not describing my understanding of the President's knowledge, but instead, my understanding of these matters."

Giuliani had said Thursday on Fox News that Trump learned about the payment to Daniels "10 days ago."

Last month, Trump answered "no" when asked by reporters if he had been aware of Cohen's payment to Daniels.

Giuliani, in his statement Friday, also addressed the issue of Trump's authority to fire FBI Director James Comey.

"It is undisputed that the President’s dismissal of former Director Comey — an inferior executive officer — was clearly within his Article II power," Giuliani said, referring to the section of the Constitution that outlines the sweeping authority of the president. "

That point was in reference to Giuliani, during his Wednesday night interview on "Hannity," having contradicted Trump's initial assertions in May 2017 that the FBI's investigation of alleged collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign had nothing to do with his decision to fire Comey.

Instead, Giuliani said Wednesday night, the president removed Comey because "Comey would not, among other things, say that (Trump) wasn't a target of the investigation."

Earlier Friday, Trump defended Giuliani and insisted he was still learning "the subject matter" as it relates to the Daniels payment.

"Rudy is a great guy, but he just started a day ago," Trump told reporters. "He's working hard. He’s learning the subject matter. Rudy knows it's a witch hunt. He started yesterday. He’ll get his facts straight."

Giuliani revealed for the first time this week that Trump had reimbursed Cohen for the $130,000 payment. Cohen had said previously that he paid Daniels out of his own pocket and without Trump's knowledge.

In an interview with NBC News, Giuliani insisted that he had only shared details of the payment to Daniels with Trump about a week ago.

"I don’t think the president realized he paid him (Cohen) back for that specific thing until we (his legal team) made him aware of the paperwork," he said.

Giuliani said the president responded, “Oh, my goodness, I guess that's what it was for.”

When asked how many payments Trump had made, Giuliani told NBC News the president started paying Cohen back in January 2017 and that altogether there were "about 12 installments of $35,000 each."

The money, totaling an estimated $420,000, also covered other expenses and fees for Cohen, Giuliani said, but he was unable to provide details.

Giuliani’s admissions apparently caught other White House staffers by surprise.

Asked whether Trump lied about not knowing about the payment to Daniels, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who said this week she was in the dark about the payment details, insisted “this was information that the president didn't know at the time, but eventually learned."

Sanders also batted away a question about how Trump still could not have known about the payment if he began paying Cohen back — as Giuliani stated — in January 2017. "Again, I’m not going to get into those details," Sanders said.

MSNBC contributor Donny Deutsch, however, said Cohen told him late Thursday night that Giuliani "doesn't know what he's talking about."