WTF Community

Day 469

Updated 5/3/2018 10:53 AM PDT

1/ Rudy Giuliani: Trump reimbursed Michael Cohen for the $130,000 hush payment to Stormy Daniels, repaying Cohen through a series of payments over several months until the transactions were completed either in 2017 or early 2018. "The president repaid it," Giuliani told Sean Hannity, but Trump "didn't know about the specifics of it, as far as I know. But he did know the general arrangement, that Michael would take care of things like this, like I take care of things like this with my clients." Giuliani said that Cohen had "settled several problems for" Trump, and the payment was one of them. (Washington Post)

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

CORRECTION (as per @matt ): Earlier today, NBC News reported that there was a wiretap on the phones of Michael Cohen, President Trump’s longtime personal attorney, citing two separate sources with knowledge of the legal proceedings involving Cohen.

But three senior U.S. officials now dispute that, saying that the monitoring of Cohen’s phones was limited to a log of calls, known as a pen register, not a wiretap where investigators can actually listen to calls.

NBC News has changed the headline and revised parts of the original article.

A real bombshell!

The wiretap has been in place for many weeks (and maybe more). At least one call with the White House was recorded – see below. " Wow!

Federal authorities wiretapped phone lines of President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen, and intercepted at least one call between a Cohen line and the White House, NBC News reported Thursday.

It is not known when the wiretap on Cohen was authorized, but it was in place in the weeks before the April 9 raid on his New York City home, hotel room and office by FBI agents, according to NBC News.

UPDATE: Just as this news was breaking, the reporters who wrote the story, Tom Winter and Julia Ainsley, appeared on a panel on MSNBC’s “Live with Craig Melvin” (Kasie Hunt was standing in for Melvin). Winter and Ainsley explained how difficult it is to obtain a warrant for a wiretap. The bar is set very high when it comes to convincing a judge there is sufficient probable cause for issuing such a warrant. My conclusion from these remarks: The Federal prosecutors must have already had very compelling evidence that Cohen had committed crimes before they even applied for this warrant.

Some other highlights:

  • Michael Avenatti (Stormy Daniels’ lawyer) was also on the panel. He said, “Here’s what I think ultimately we’re going to find out. I don’t think we’re going to find out that this was confined just to email or voice wiretaps, I think they also, my understanding is that they were also wiretapping text message communications for the weeks leading up to the FBI raid.” Later in the discussion, Kasie Hunt, circled back and asked Avenatti if he was “speculating” about text messages being recorded. He replied, “No I’m not speculating. That’s a fact.”

  • Avenatti also said he believes the wiretapping revealed that Cohen was making plans to destroy evidence and that’s why the search warrants were issued – to obtain relevant documents before they were destroyed.

  • Tom Winter interjected this teaser: “I have a little bit of an understanding as to why the warrant came in when it did, but that’s not something I’m ready to report at this point.” Mmmm… more bombshells ahead…


That President Trump knew about hush money paid to a porn star isn’t the only shocking thing his new lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, acknowledged Wednesday. Giuliani also said that the reason Trump fired James B. Comey as FBI director was essentially because Comey wouldn’t do his bidding in the Russia investigation.

The circumstances surrounding Comey’s firing look very different after Giuliani’s comments.

Whether that rises to obstruction of justice is up for the special counsel to decide. We know Robert S. Mueller III is investigating possible obstruction. But, just making an educated guess here: Had Trump said then what Giuliani says now about Comey’s firing, members of Congress would have reacted very differently.

In fact, this admission a year later makes some of the Republicans who backed Trump in that controversial decision look, well, a little foolish.


Giuliani appeared to stun Fox News host Sean Hannity on Wednesday night by revealing that Trump reimbursed his personal lawyer Michael Cohen for a $130,000 payment Cohen had made to the porn actress Stormy Daniels for her silence about an alleged affair.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders:

“I think this is a distraction and a distraction to the American people, and I think it’s a real disservice to them about not hearing a lot of great things taking place in the administration,” Sanders said.

She declined, however, to elaborate on Giuliani’s statements.

Giuliani, meanwhile, did another round of interviews — but may have caused even more trouble.


Rudy Giuliani’s cable rollout as a member of President Donald Trump’s legal team, and the torrent of statements he made Wednesday night, caught many in the White House offguard and flat-footed, highlighting the continued chaotic nature of the President’s communications strategy.

The former New York City mayor said he spoke to Trump before and after his explosive announcement on Fox News Wednesday night when he said the President had reimbursed his attorney Michael Cohen for the $130,000 payment to the porn actress Stormy Daniels.

But Giuliani conceded that White House officials were caught off guard by his comments.

One White House aide said Giuliani’s interview “stunned and shocked” communications staff, most of whom weren’t expecting it.

One White House official remarked that Giuliani undermined the administration’s entire defense strategy when it came to not just Daniels, but also former FBI Director James Comey and the special counsel, all in the span of a single interview.


Thanks to Rudolph W. Giuliani, a former New York mayor and current member of the president’s legal team, Trump has been exposed flat out about the $130,000 in hush money that his attorney Michael Cohen paid to adult film actress Stephanie Clifford (a.k.a. Stormy Daniels) to cover up an affair that the president denies having with her.

Even Hannity, long a defender of the president in all manner of controversies, was caught by surprise.

Cohen had claimed that the money came from his personal finances

Trump had claimed that he knew nothing about any of it.

Giuliani said there are many instances in which lawyers do things for clients without letting them know, “like I take care of things like this with my clients” because “these are busy people.”

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders decided not to try to decipher or explain or acknowledge the contradictions between the president’s and Cohen’s earlier statements and what Giuliani said Wednesday night and Thursday morning. Citing “ongoing litigation,” she said, “I don’t have anything else to say.” What else is there to say after the truth finally catches up with the lies?


Adding this here, because I haven’t had a chance to read it yet…

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@matt Great catch on the transcript of Giuliani’s interview with the WP! It’s really telling to read the details. Here’s the most startling exchange for me:

Costa: How many payments did it take for the president to settle up with Cohen?

Giuliani: Do the arithmetic, right? $35,000 a month, probably starting in January or February. By the time you get to $250,000, it’s all paid off. Remember, he also paid for the taxes. Then there probably were other things of a personal nature that Michael took care of, for which the president would have always trusted him as his lawyer, as my clients do with me. And that was paid back out of the rest of the money. And Michael earned a fee out of it.

Giuliani’s reply is astounding in so many ways:

  • We see yet again that Giuliani, as with the rest of Trump’s legal beagles, is either woefully incompetent or utterly unprepared. In answering this question, it’s apparent he is totally winging it. “Do the arithmetic…” Say what? Why doesn’t he just tell us? – Because he’s figuring it out himself as he goes.

  • The payments were made “probably starting in January or February.” Again, say what? Didn’t you even ask your client?

  • “By the time you get to $250,000…” Whoa, hold up there – how did we suddenly jump from talking about $130,000 to $250,000? Giuliani rambles on about “taxes” and “other things of a personal nature that Michael took care of.” This doesn’t pass the smell test.

  • OK, now let’s do the arithmetic. $250,000 divided by $35,000 for each monthly payment equals 7 payments plus change so let’s just call it 7. If the payments started in February of 2017 (and we need to assume here that the payments were made without interruption and that no other work by Cohen intervened to eat up the $35,000 monthly fee) then, at the earliest, the payments ended in August, well into Trump’s presidency. I haven’t had time, but I’m sure investigative reporters are now looking at this time line and seeing how it stacks up against what Trump was doing and tweeting during these months.


Giuliani is this year’s Scaramucci.


I think that’s an insult to Scaramucci. (That’s where we are now – somehow people working at the White House now are so utterly ridiculous they make the Mooch look good… good gravy.)


Good point and that reminds me of the people yearning for George W. Bush again.


CORRECTION: Earlier today, NBC News reported that there was a wiretap on the phones of Michael Cohen, President Trump’s longtime personal attorney, citing two separate sources with knowledge of the legal proceedings involving Cohen.

But three senior U.S. officials now dispute that, saying that the monitoring of Cohen’s phones was limited to a log of calls, known as a pen register, not a wiretap where investigators can actually listen to calls.

NBC News has changed the headline and revised parts of the original article.


T’s tweets pertaining to “Give 'em the death penalty” are affecting some 9/11 trials.


President Donald Trump’s incendiary remarks about military justice stirred a dramatic exchange in a hearing Thursday for the accused conspirators of the 9/11 attacks, with defense lawyers arguing that the commander-in-chief exerted unlawful influence.

At issue are Trump’s remarks on Twitter and in person about the decision to give no prison time to Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl and to urge the death penalty on a man who had not yet been charged for driving a van through a New York City bike path, killing eight people.

An attorney for alleged 9/11 plotter Khalid Sheik Mohammed urged the judge, Army Col. James Pohl, to remove the death penalty from consideration, if not dismiss the case altogether.

Prosecutor Bob Swann countered that that some people don’t really pay attention to Trump’s commentary and that the jury of U.S. military officers will decide the case based on other issues."

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Mike Allen of Axios recaps the Michael Cohen situation this way. Guiliani was "furious’ when he learned from NBC’s report that Cohen’s phones were tapped, but this story has been walked back by NBC (matt’s post). Cohen’s phone calls were logged but not listened to.

Interesting of course to hear from T’s former campaign person is ‘very worried’ about Michael Cohen.


Michael Cohen goes through the wringer for Trump

Michael Cohen is in trouble. NBC’s report that federal investigators “monitored” the phone lines of President Tru
mp’s longtime personal lawyer [NBC initially said Cohen was wiretapped] — and intercepted a call between Cohen and the White House — is the latest in a string of reports that reveal the broad scope of the federal government’s investigation.

Why it matters: Things are closing in, rapidly, on Michael Cohen. The repercussions will be felt heavily in the White House, as Cohen, Trump’s “fix it” lawyer, is heavily intertwined in Trump’s professional, political, personal, legal and family life. He is, as Axios’ Mike Allen put it, “the man with secrets few others hold.”
How things unraveled

Last year, Cohen was drawn into Mueller's Russia investigation for his contacts with Russians during Trump's 2016 presidential campaign.
In February, Cohen said he paid Stormy Daniels, the adult film star alleging she had an affair with Trump, $130,000 during the Trump campaign with his own funds.
Last month, federal investigators raided Cohen's office, hotel room, and home, and took records and payments relating to Stormy Daniels' case as well as communications between Trump and Cohen.
Last night, Trump's new lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, told Fox's Sean Hannity that the president had actually repaid Michael Cohen for his $130,000 payment to Daniels, despite Trump previously denying any knowledge of the arrangement.
In a string of early morning tweets, Trump also admitted to reimbursing Cohen for the $130,000 payment.
And today, two sources "with knowledge of the legal proceedings involving Cohen" told NBC that the federal government "monitored" Cohen's phone lines in the weeks leading up to their raids on his office, hotel room, and home in early April. 

What we don’t know

It's still unclear what Cohen is being investigated for. Following last month's raids, The Washington Post reported that Cohen "is under federal federal investigation for possible bank fraud, wire fraud and campaign finance violations," citing three people with knowledge of the case.

View from the White House

Giuliani told the Washington Post's Robert Costa that "when he read NBC report, he was furious. 'If they picked up the president, they would have had to notify him.' Said if true, wld be a 'mockery' of attorney-client privilege and 'gov't misconduct.'"
And what a former Trump campaign official told Mike Allen last month still rings true: “The guys that know Trump best are the most worried. People are very, very worried. Because it’s Michael [effing] Cohen. Who knows what he’s done?"

Editor’s note: NBC News reported today that Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s phone was wiretapped in the weeks prior to the FBI raid. They later corrected their story on air, noting that federal authorities were “monitoring” Cohen’s phone calls but not listening to them as previously reported. This story has been updated to reflect that correction.

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Remember when, Adam Davidson from the New Yorker wrote:

This is the week we know, with increasing certainty, that we are entering the last phase of the Trump Presidency. This doesn’t feel like a prophecy; it feels like a simple statement of the apparent truth. I know dozens of reporters and other investigators who have studied Donald Trump and his business and political ties. Some have been skeptical of the idea that President Trump himself knowingly colluded with Russian officials. It seems not at all Trumpian to participate in a complex plan with a long-term, uncertain payoff. Collusion is an imprecise word, but it does seem close to certain that his son Donald, Jr., and several people who worked for him colluded with people close to the Kremlin; it is up to prosecutors and then the courts to figure out if this was illegal or merely deceitful. We may have a hard time finding out what President Trump himself knew and approved.

I think today we got a glimpse of the beginning of the end for Mr. Trump and his shoddy administration. :thinking:What do you guys think and how is everybody feeling?


Manafort Trial starts July 10 – Save the date!


Trump’s entire defense, as well as his entire presidency (and the rest of his Administration): “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit”.


Lee, I got that feeling too. We’re near a breaking point. I am reading The Dangerous Mind of Donald Trump and it is frightening. I’m a layman, but everybody can form their own opinion, but he’s obviously a very sick man when one understands the definition of sociopath and malignant narcissism. One of the questions that the psychologists ponder is, is Trump Crazy Like a Fox, or just Crazy Like a Crazy?

I think the bottom line with this Giuliani thing is that he and Trump feed off each other (both narcissists of varying degrees) and they concocted this bizarre story, which is that rich people AND celebrities, have all these “burdens” of paying off people who attack them for no reason, via teams of lawyers. Folks this is normal, move along now… Trump has more or less admitted that Cohen was his “tool” for taking care of whatever problem arose, sort of like how you or I would reach for a breaker bar when we need to change a tire.


Thanks for comforting reply. Comforting in the sense that neither of us is alone in the assault and on going gobsmacking by illustrious leader. There are SO many who are culpable and we should not let them off the hook, worms that they are.

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Agreed. While I disagree with his politics and his Trump love-fest, from everything I’ve heard from him in interviews post-ousting he seems like an intelligent, mostly decent, and moderate guy. His downfall was that he had a mind of his own and wasn’t a Trump sycophant.