Waiting for the Stormy to Blow Over
Giuliani initiates chaos in the Trump affair, but there is a method to the madness.
Rudy Giuliani surprised much of the nation and the mainstream media this week when he acknowledged in an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity that President Donald Trump had, via his longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen, paid off adult actress Stormy Daniels over her allegations of an affair. The surprise had little to do with questions surrounding Trump’s character and the possibility of his affair 12 years ago — most Americans knew full well that Trump was no choir boy. Instead, it was the sudden admission of the payment after Trump had previously denied any knowledge of it. Did Giuliani just admit to Hannity that Trump lied? It sure looks like it, but, as they say, the devil is in the details.
Recall that Giuliani, a renowned prosecutor before he became mayor of New York City, recently joined Trump’s legal team with the stated objective of bringing Robert Mueller’s investigation to a swift end. Last month, after the story broke that the FBI had raided Cohen’s home and office, it was learned that Daniels’ allegations that she had been paid off were confirmed. Questions then arose as to whether the payoff broke any laws, specifically regarding campaign finance. With the long-running Mueller investigation seemingly having given up on finding any crime of a Trump/Russia collusion conspiracy and instead turning to other possible infractions, Trump (via Giuliani) decided to go on the offensive.
But in order to aggressively do so, the one potentially significant and legally dangerous card the Mueller investigation has to play — a charge of violating campaign finance law — must be dealt with. That explains Giuliani’s public confirmation of the payment to Daniels, while at the same time denying that Trump had knowledge of the payment before a month ago. It also explains the comments about Cohen being paid a regular retainer to look out for any potential problems for Trump, without Trump having to be directly alerted to them. In other words, while it may seem a dubious assertion to claim that Trump had no knowledge of the payoff, it does give him the legal room for plausible deniability. Giuliani is seeking to get any legal entanglements for Trump out of the way before hitting hard on the Mueller investigation. Needless to say, it’s messy and it comes at the cost of a hit to Trump’s credibility.
In the long run, that may be the bigger hurdle for Trump. If the events surrounding this affair eventually show clearly that Trump knowingly and deliberately lied to the American people, that may prove to be the most damaging aspect of this whole scandal. As is often the case, the cover-up becomes worse than the offense. So will Trump and Giuliani’s intentional chaos play work to confuse and keep everyone guessing until a deal is done? Time will tell. In the meantime, it’s bound to get even more, er, stormy.