By Ryan Teague Beckwith
Updated: May 4, 2018 2:30 PM ET | Originally published: May 3, 2018

In an interview with Rudy Giuliani and a series of tweets Thursday morning, Donald Trump’s team reversed itself on some key questions of how it handled a payment to porn star Stormy Daniels.

Speaking with Fox News host Sean Hannity, the former New York City mayor and new member of the President’s legal team admitted that Trump repaid personal attorney Michael Cohen for the $130,000 in hush money given to Daniels. Trump then essentially confirmed that account in a series of tweets.

This came after weeks of denials to the contrary, including one from Trump himself. Trump continues to deny that he had an affair with Daniels.

Here’s a timeline of the official line on the payments.

Feb. 13: Cohen says he paid the $130,000 and was not reimbursed

In response to a complaint to the Federal Election Commission that the payment violated campaign finance law, Cohen sent a statement to reporters claiming that he paid out his own pocket and was not reimbursed.

“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. The payment to Ms. Clifford was lawful, and was not a campaign contribution or a campaign expenditure by anyone.”

Feb. 14: Cohen again says he was not reimbursed

In an interview with Vanity Fair published on Feb. 14, Cohen said that he paid the $130,000 from his own pocket and was not reimbursed by either the Trump campaign or the Trump organization.

As for the other questions, he reiterated that the $130,000 came from his own bank account and that he was not reimbursed by either the Trump campaign or Trump Organization, but would not answer more on the record. “I am not on trial, nor am I sitting for a worldwide deposition,” he said. “I was responding to a complaint within a timely manner.”

March 7: White House says Trump did not know about the payment

Speaking at the daily press briefing, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that Trump did not know about any payments to Stormy Daniels, citing a conversation she’d had with him.

Reporter: You were asked about whether the President knew about this payment his longtime lawyer made to — facilitated, rather — to Stormy Daniels. You said then, and again today, not that you’re aware of. Have you asked the President this question?

Sanders: Yeah, I’ve had conversations with the President about this. And, as I outlined earlier, that this case has already been won in arbitration and that there was no knowledge of any payments from the President, and he’s denied all of these allegations.

April 5: Trump says he did not know about the payment

Speaking to reporters on Air Force One, Trump said curtly that he did not know about the payment, referring questions to Cohen.

Reporter: Did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?

Trump: No.

Reporter: Then why did Michael Cohen make this, if there was no truth to the allegations.

Trump: Well, you’ll have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney and you’ll have to ask Michael Cohen.

Reporter: Do you know where he got the money to make that payment?

Trump: No, I don’t know.

April 26: Trump says no campaign funds went to Cohen

In a phone interview with “Fox and Friends,” Trump says that no campaign funds went to Cohen for the payment. It was the first time Trump publicly used Daniels’ name.

But, Michael would represent me and represent me on some things. He represents me — like with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal he represented me. And, you know, from what I see he did absolutely nothing wrong. There were no campaign funds going into this … which would have been a problem.

May 2: Giuliani says Trump reimbursed Cohen for the $130,000

In an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity, Giuliani said that Trump personally reimbursed Cohen for the money in installments as a monthly retainer.

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.

GIULIANI: Yep.

HANNITY: There’s no campaign finance law.

GIULIANI: Zero. Just like every — Sean, Sean —

HANNITY: So this decision was made by —

GIULIANI: Everybody was nervous about this from the very beginning. I wasn’t. I knew how much money Donald Trump put into that campaign, and I said, “$130,000? He could do a couple of checks for $130,000.”

When I heard of Cohen’s retainer for $130,000, he was doing no work for the President. I said, “Well, that’s how he’s repaying it, with a little profit and a little margin for paying taxes for Michael.

May 2: Giuliani says Cohen was reimbursed for as much as $470,000

In a follow-up interview with the New York Times, Giuliani said that Cohen was reimbursed for the Stormy Daniels payment as well as other “incidental expenses,” adding up to a total of $460,000 or $470,000.

“Some time after the campaign is over, they set up a reimbursement, $35,000 a month, out of his personal family account,” Mr. Giuliani said. He added that over all, Mr. Cohen was paid $460,000 or $470,000 from Mr. Trump through those payments, which also included money for “incidental expenses” that he had incurred on Mr. Trump’s behalf.

May 3: Trump tweets that he reimbursed Cohen

In a series of tweets, Trump confirmed that he kept Cohen on a monthly retainer which reimbursed him for the non-disclosure agreement, but argued that no campaign money was used.

May 4: Trump says Giuliani didn’t get his ‘facts straight’

Speaking to reporters before boarding Marine One, Trump said that Giuliani got some of his facts wrong when speaking about the Daniels payment and promised a statement would come shortly.

I tell you what — Rudy is a great guy, but he just started a day ago. But he really has his heart into it. He’s working hard. He’s learning the subject matter. And he’s going to be issuing a statement too. But he is a great guy. He knows it’s a witch hunt. That’s what he knows. He’s seen a lot of them. And he said he’s never seen anything so horrible.

As an example, 33,000 emails requested by Congress with a subpoena, and they get burned, they get deleted. And nobody says anything. Give me a break.

So Rudy knows it’s a witch hunt. He started yesterday. He’ll get his facts straight. He’s a great guy. But what he does is he feels it’s a very bad thing for our country, and he happens to be right.

May 4: Giuliani says he was wrong about when Trump knew about the payments

In a statement issued to reporters, Giuliani said that the payments were made to resolve a “personal and false allegation” and that his “references to timing” were about his understanding and not Trump’s.

This is intended to clarify the views I expressed over the past few days.

These are my views:

First:

There is no campaign violation. 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.

Second:

My references to timing were not describing my understanding of the President’s knowledge, but instead, my understanding of these matters.

Third:

It is undisputed that the President’s dismissal of former Director Comey — an inferior executive officer — was clearly within his Article II power. Recent revelations about former Director Comey further confirm the wisdom of the President’s Decision, which was plainly in the best interests of our nation.

 

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