(CN) – In a series of tweets early Thursday, President Donald Trump backed up revelations by his new lawyer Rudy Giuliani that Trump repaid his personal lawyer Michael Cohen the $130,000 Cohen spent on an agreement with adult film star Stormy Daniels to keep her quiet about her 2006 affair with the president.
Giuliani made the revelation on Sean Hannity’s show on Fox News on Wednesday night, contradicting Cohen’s earlier claims that he made the $130,000 payment to Daniels with his own money.
According to Giuliani, Trump’s repayment to Cohen was legal since it was paid from Trump’s personal bank account and not from campaign funds.
“It’s going to turn out to be perfectly legal,” Giuliani said. “That money was not campaign money. Sorry, I’m giving you a fact that you don’t know. It’s not campaign money. No campaign finance violation.”
“Because they funneled it through a law firm?” Hannity said.
“Funneled it through a law firm,” Giuliani said. “Funneled it through a law firm and then the president repaid it.”
“Oh, I didn’t know he did,” said Hannity, a personal friend of Trump.
Giuliani recently joined Trump’s legal team as the ongoing Russia investigation ramps up. Trump had previously denied having knowledge of the payment.
But the president took to Twitter early Thursday to let his followers know hush agreements like the one Cohen facilitated with Daniels are “very common among celebrities and people of wealth.”
“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 very common among celebrities and people of wealth,” Trump tweeted.
“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, 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 (sic) in this transaction.”
Trump’s tweets on Thursday stand in stark contrast to what he said during a phone appearance on “Fox and Friends” last month, when he said Cohen did represent him in the deal with Daniels – a claim that walked back his previous denial of any knowledge of the nondisclosure agreement.
Daniels, given name Stephanie Clifford, signed a nondisclosure agreement with Cohen just before the 2016 presidential election in exchange for her silence about an alleged affair with Trump in 2006. She sued Trump and Cohen earlier this year, claiming that her “hush money” agreement was invalid, because Trump did not sign it. She also sued Trump in a separate defamation case.
Last month, a federal judge in Los Angeles granted a 90-day stay in Daniels’ original lawsuit, because Cohen may face a possible indictment in the criminal investigation by the FBI.
After Giuliani’s appearance with Hannity on Wednesday, Daniels’ attorney Michael Avenatti tweeted the equivalent of “told you so.”
“We predicted months ago that it would be proven that the American people had been lied to as to the $130k payment and what Mr. Trump knew, when he knew it and what he did in connection with it,” Avenatti tweeted Wednesday night.
Legal experts meanwhile have weighed in on whether Cohen’s fronting of the hush money – and Trump’s repayment of it – violated campaign-finance laws.
In a statement Thursday, Campaign Legal Center president Trevor Potter pointed to Giuliani’s defense of the hush agreement to Hannity, in which he said “imagine if that came out on Oct. 15, 2016, in the middle of the last debate with Hillary Clinton.” Potter said claims by Trump and Giuliani that no laws were violated become much harder to make in light of Giuliani’s quip.
“Given the new accounts by Trump and Giuliani, it now appears Cohen violated campaign finance law when he fronted the $130,000 payment with funds financed by his home mortgage because that constitutes a campaign contribution by him well in excess of the $2,700 limit, and the Trump campaign (through its agent, the candidate) violated the law by accepting an excessive contribution and failing to report it. If this is the case, then the campaign further violated the law by failing to report Trump’s subsequent repayments to Cohen,” Potter said.
He added: “With this latest explanation, President Trump finds himself between something of a rock and a hard place. If this payment was a $460,000 loan from Michael Cohen, as Rudy Giuliani claimed, Trump was required to disclose it in the financial disclosure report that he filed in June 2017 with the Office of Government Ethics.
“The law required him to disclose any loan that was greater than $10,000 at any time during 2016 or the first half of 2017. He didn’t disclose it and, if the omission was intentional, he could be subject to civil or criminal penalties.”
Potter urged the Federal Election Commission to open an investigation “so future campaigns don’t feel empowered to ignore requirements put in place to keep campaigns transparent.”