The scandal involving President Donald Trump, his personal attorney Michael Cohen, and adult film star Stormy Daniels unraveled in early March, as team Trump confirmed a story he had spent the past months denying.
In a series of statements, tweets, and on-air appearances, the president and his defenders have changed their statements in the months since then. Here’s how:
First, what Stormy Daniels has alleged:
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Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, first gave a full interview detailing a one night stand and months-long contact with Trump to In Touch magazine in 2006, five years before his personal attorney would send her $130,000 just 10 days before the 2016 election.
The story was buried after Trump’s personal attorney reportedly threatened to sue the magazine.
On March 6, Daniels filed a suit that the non-disclosure agreement Cohen had her sign in October 2016 was void because it was missing Trump’s signature.
After that, she started doing interviews to tell her side of the story. On March 25, she appeared on “60 Minutes”, and said Trump told her in 2006 “you remind me of my daughter” after she spanked him with a magazine, that they allegedly had unprotected sex, and that he told her “not to worry” about his wife or newborn son at the time.
Daniels said a man threatened her and her infant daughter in 2011, releasing a composite sketch of him on April 17. When Trump tweeted the photo and called the stunt a”total con job“, Daniels sued him for defamation.
What Michael Cohen has said over time:
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Though he’s at the center of the payments in question, Cohen has had some of the most combative answers relaying the facts of this case.
In a matter of three months, Cohen denied, admitted, and took the blame for the payment to Daniels before resigning to relative silence amid three separate investigations into his actions.
January 17: “An old and debunked story”
Cohen denied any affair with Trump or payment to Daniels in an email to The New York Times, saying the story was “old news that wasn’t true then, not true now.”
February 13: “The payment was lawful”
Cohen then admitted to paying Daniels and told The Times that the settlement was a private transaction.
“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,” Mr. Cohen said in a statement to the Times. “The payment to Ms. Clifford was lawful, and was not a campaign contribution or a campaign expenditure by anyone.”
March 9: “I wired it to an IOLA account in Beverly Hills”
Cohen released an October 2016 email from his Trump Organization account in a statement to ABC News, saying it was proof of a money transfer between accounts at First Republic Bank two weeks before the presidential election, which he said was to pay Daniels.
April 25: Pleading the 5th
Cohen’s lawyer said he would invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in the Daniels case amid the heightened criminal investigation.
What Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani has said over time:
Newly appointed attorney Rudy Giuliani exceeded what any member of Trump’s orbit had previously said about the payment within days of joining Trump’s legal team.
May 2: “The president repaid it”
In an on-air interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity, Giuliani said Trump reimbursed Cohen for the payment and referred to it as a retainer that was paid “over several months”. That revelation contradicted what Trump had been saying for weeks.
“He didn’t know about the specifics of it, as far as I know,” Giuliani said when asked whether Trump knew the payment was to Daniels. “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.”
May 3: “Cohen made it go away”
Opening Trump up to legal jeopardy under campaign finance laws, Giuliani appeared on “Fox & Friends” and said Cohen was being “treated like some kind of villain” for trying to help Trump’s family — as opposed to the Trump campaign.
“Imagine if that came out on October 15, 2016, in the middle of the last debate with Hillary Clinton,” Giuliani said. “Cohen made it go away. He did his job.”
May 4: “There is no campaign violation”
“There is no campaign violation,” Giuliani said in a statement. “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.”
He added: “My references to the timing were not describing my understanding of the President’s knowledge, but instead, my understanding of these matters.”
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May 5: “I’m not an expert on the facts yet”
“This is, you know, 1.2 million documents. I’ve been in the case for two weeks. Virtually one day, in comparison to other people. So I’m not an expert on the facts, yet. I’m getting there,” Giuliani said on Fox News. “The fact is there is no way this is a campaign finance violation of any kind, nor was it a loan. It was an expenditure.”
He added: “Even if it was a campaign donation, the president reimbursed it fully with a payment of $35,000 a month that paid for that and other expenses. No need to go beyond that. Case over.”
May 6: It’s possible Cohen paid off other women to stay silent about alleged affairs with Trump
Calling the $130,000 a “nuisance payment,” Giuliani told ABC’s “This Week” that he didn’t know whether Cohen had made other payments, adding, “I would think if it was necessary, yes. He made payments for the president or he’s conducted business for the president.”
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