President Donald Trump says reimbursement to his personal lawyer for money paid to porn actress Stormy Daniels was done through a monthly retainer and “had nothing to do with the campaign”.
On Twitter, Mr Trump says his personal lawyer Michael Cohen received a monthly retainer “from which he entered into, through reimbursement, a private contract between two parties, known as a non-disclosure agreement, or NDA”.
He added that the agreement “was used to stop the false and extortionist accusations made by her about an affair”.
Mr. Cohen, an attorney, received a monthly retainer, not from the campaign and having nothing to do with the campaign, from which he entered into, through reimbursement, a private contract between two parties, known as a non-disclosure agreement, or NDA. These agreements are.....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 3, 2018
...very common among celebrities and people of wealth. In this case it is in full force and effect and will be used in Arbitration for damages against Ms. Clifford (Daniels). The agreement was used to stop the false and extortionist accusations made by her about an affair,......— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 3, 2018
...despite already having signed a detailed letter admitting that there was no affair. Prior to its violation by Ms. Clifford and her attorney, this was a private agreement. Money from the campaign, or campaign contributions, played no roll in this transaction.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 3, 2018
Mr Trump’s tweets came after Rudy Giuliani, one of his lawyers, said on Wednesday Mr Trump reimbursed Mr Cohen for 130,000 US dollars (£95,000) in hush money to Ms Daniels days before the 2016 presidential election.
That appeared to contradict the president’s past claims that he did not know the source of the money.
During an appearance on Fox News Channel’s Hannity, Mr Giuliani said the money to repay Mr Cohen had been “funnelled … through the law firm and the president repaid it”.
Asked if Mr Trump knew about the arrangement, Mr Giuliani said: “He didn’t know about the specifics of it, as far as I know.
“But he did know about the general arrangement, that Michael would take care of things like this, like I take care of things like this for my clients. I don’t burden them with every single thing that comes along. These are busy people.”
The comments appeared to contradict statements made by Mr Trump weeks ago, when he said he didn’t know about the payment to Ms Daniels as part of a nondisclosure agreement she signed days before the presidential election.
Mr Giuliani later suggested to The Wall Street Journal that while Mr Trump had repaid the money, Mr Cohen settled the payment to Ms Daniels without his knowledge at the time.
Mr Guiliani’s revelation seemed aimed at reducing the president’s legal exposure but experts said it raised a number of questions, such as whether the money represented repayment of an undisclosed loan or could be seen as reimbursement for a campaign expenditure.
Asked aboard Air Force One last month whether he knew about the payment, Trump said flatly: “No.”
He also said he didn’t know why Mr Cohen made the payment or where he got the money.
In a phone interview with Fox and Friends last week, however, Mr Trump appeared to muddy the waters, saying Mr Cohen represented him in the “crazy Stormy Daniels deal”.
Mr Giuliani, a former New York City mayor and ex-US attorney who joined Mr Trump’s legal team last month, said the president had repaid Mr Cohen over several months.
That indicates the payments continued through at least the presidential transition, if not into his presidency. He also said the payment “is going to turn out to be perfectly legal” because “that money was not campaign money”.
No debt to Mr Cohen is listed on Mr Trump’s personal financial disclosure form, which was certified on June 16 2017.
Mr Giuliani also described the payment to Ms Daniels as “a very regular thing for lawyers to do”.
Ms Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti, called the comment “a stunning revelation.”
“Mr Trump evidently has participated in a felony and there must be serious consequences for his conduct and his lies and deception to the American people,” he said.
Ms Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, says she had a sexual encounter with Mr Trump in 2006 and was paid to keep quiet as part of a nondisclosure agreement she is now seeking to invalidate.
She has also filed a defamation suit against Mr Trump after he questioned a composite sketch she released of a man she says threatened her to stay quiet.
The White House has said Mr Trump denies having a relationship with Ms Daniels.
Mr Cohen had said previously: “Neither the Trump Organisation nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms Clifford, and neither reimbursed me for the payment, either directly or indirectly.”
Asked about Cohen’s denial, Mr Giuliani said that he didn’t know whether Cohen had made the payment without asking Trump but that he had “no reason to dispute that”.
Ms Daniels’ law suit over the hush deal has been delayed, with the judge citing the criminal investigation.