Trump-Giuliani attempt to sweep away affair backfires

Trump Was Aware of $130,000 “Hush Money” to Porn Star Over Affair

Contrary to his repeated denials, Donald Trump knew about a $130,000 payoff to Stormy Daniels — the porn star who says she had a sexual encounter with Trump in 2006 — several months ago, according to two people familiar with the arrangement.

As recently as last month Trump said he knew nothing of the hush money, paid by his personal lawyer Michael Cohen to Daniels 11 days before the 2016 Presidential election.

The matter has escalated since an April 9 FBI raid on Cohen’s office, home, and hotel room over his business dealings. On Wednesday night, Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani — in what was supposed to be a friendly interview on Fox TV — dropped Trump into more trouble by saying the President had repaid the $130,000 to Cohen.

Giuliani has scrambled to explain away Trump’s knowledge as the strategy to clear the President — reportedly pursued by him and his long-time New York friend, with no consultation with any other White House staff — has backfired. Giuliani caused further trouble on Thursday when he effectively linked the payoff to the Trump campaign, raising the prospect of violations of Federal election law.

See Podcast: How Trump and Giuliani’s TV Strategy Failed Over Stormy Daniels Payoff

It is not clear when Trump first learned of the payoff to Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, but “three people close to the matter” said Trump knew that Cohen had succeeded in keeping the allegations from reaching the public.

Giuliani attempted again on Friday to distance Trump from the hush money, saying that he did not know whether Trump had known that part of “retainers” to Cohen — claimed by Giuliani to be about $460,000 or $470,000 over a year — had been given to Daniels/Clifford: “It’s not something I’m aware of, nor is it relevant to what I’m doing, the legal part.”

The lawyer said he did not “see a problem” legally with the payoff, but acknowledged, “Politically, everything matters.”

Meanwhile, Trump — having expressed full support of Giuliani on Thursday — tried to walk away from Giuliani and the strategy yesterday. He told reporters that he was sure his lawyer would eventually “get his facts straight”.

Trump excused Giuliani by saying, “He just started a day ago….He’s still learning his subject matter.”

Trump asserted, “Virtually everything said has been said incorrectly, and it’s been said wrong, or it’s been covered wrong by the press.”

Mueller Questioned Russian Tycoon in Trump-Russia Inquiry

Special Counsel Robert Mueller has questioned one of Russia’s richest men as part of the Trump-Russia investigation.

Vekselberg was among Russian officials and businessmen sanctioned last month over Moscow’s interference in the 2016 election.

The billionaire was stopped at a New York-area airport about two months ago.

Vekselberg attended Trump’s inauguration last year. The revelation of his questioning indicate that Mueller is stepping up his focus on potential connections between Russian oligarchs and the Trump campaign and inaugural committee.

Vekselberg attended a December 2015 dinner in Russia where Michael Flynn, soon to be a senior Trump campaign aide and then National Security Advisor sat beside Russian President Vladimir Putin. US Green Party candidate Jill Stein and commentator Max Blumenthal were also courted by the Russians at the ceremony for State outlet RT.

Vekselberg’s company was the largest single shareholder in the Bank of Cyprus, a favored repository for Russian money, when Trump’s future Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, was the bank’s vice-chairman.