In case you missed it, Rudy Giuliani threw the political world into a tailspin on Wednesday night. In his formal debut as a member of Donald Trump’s legal team, Giuliani told Fox News’ Sean Hannity that Trump had indeed reimbursed his longtime lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, for the $130,000 paid to Stormy Daniels in return for the porn star’s silence on their alleged affair.
Watch Giuliani make this admission here.
Giuliani claims that Trump reimbursed the money in installments “over a period of several months.” However, Trump insisted last month that he didn’t even know about the payment or the accompanying non-disclosure agreement–seemingly buttressing Cohen’s longstanding claim that he’d “facilitated” the payment himself.
According to Eric Lentz of New York magazine, if Cohen indeed made the payment out of his own pocket with the intention of sealing Daniels’ lips, it would legally amount to an in-kind contribution to the Trump campaign. In that case, it would far exceed the legal limit for an individual donor.
Giuliani only made things marginally better for Cohen by claiming that Trump reimbursed the money. According to Philip Bump of The Washington Post, that would make the payment a loan to the Trump campaign–one that should have been disclosed on Federal Election Commission forms, and wasn’t.
But shortly after Giuliani seemingly pulling Cohen’s feet out of the fire, he pushed them back in. In a conversation with Fox News White House correspondent John Roberts, Giuliani seemed to backpedal.
Well, that’s interesting. A businessman’s longtime lawyer decides on his own authority to pay hush money to a woman who claims she was that businessman’s honey. Then the businessman reimburses the lawyer for that payment–but doesn’t know that payment is going towards reimbursing the money?
Later, Giuliani told The New York Times that Trump paid Cohen a total of $460,000 or $470,000 through a family account for “settling several problems” on Trump’s behalf. Giuliani added that as far as he knew, Trump wasn’t aware that part of that money went toward reimbursing Cohen for the hush money to Daniels.
Giuliani maintains that this proves there was no campaign finance violation. But election law experts are virtually unanimous that if the payment was made to influence the election, it would be considered an in-kind contribution.
And even if there was no campaign finance violation, Giuliani may have just put Cohen’s legal career on life support. For one thing, New York state bar rules do not allow lawyers to “advance or guarantee financial assistance” to clients except in limited circumstances. Those same rules also require lawyers to keep their clients informed at all times. So even if Cohen manages to escape the scrutiny of the FEC or the Justice Department, he could still have to answer to the New York State Bar Association.
Believe it or not, this is actually the second time in a week that a Trump acolyte has fired a shot across Cohen’s bow. On Sunday, Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti, noticed this on the front cover of the National Enquirer–owned by ardent Trump ally David Pecker.
“AMI” is American Media Inc., parent company of the Enquirer. Apparently Pecker and the Enquirer suspect that Cohen is about to sing to either Robert Mueller or federal prosecutors in Manhattan–if he isn’t doing so already.
Cohen spent the better part of two decades running over people on Trump’s behalf. For once, he may be learning what it feels like to be the one getting run over.
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