"He started yesterday. He’ll get his facts straight. He's a great guy," Mr Trump said speaking to the media at Joint Base Andrews base about to depart for Texas and flanked by Chief of Staff John Kelly. The former New York City mayor, Mr Giuliani stirred controversy this past week as he appeared on Fox News and directly contradicted the president on an issue regarding adult film star Stormy Daniels.
Mr Giuliani said Mr Trump had reimbursed his personal lawyer Michael Cohen for a $130,000 payment made just days before the November 2016 election in order to keep her quiet about an alleged affair between the president and Ms Daniels in 2006. The president has denied the affair and when asked if he knew about the payment on Air Force One on 9 April, he said the media should "go ask" Mr Cohen about it. In a statement later in the day, Mr Giuliani said the payment was not a "campaign violation," adding that the "payment was made to resolve a personal and false allegation in order to protect the president's family". Mr Trump had been married to First Lady Melania Trump at the time of the alleged affair.
Mr Giuliani claimed in the rambling interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity, considered a 'friendly audience' for Trump administration officials, that Mr Trump only recently learned the reason for the payment to Ms Daniels. Mr Trump then backed up those assertions the morning after the interview in a series of tweets in which he said the payment was not made from his presidential campaign funds, which could have been deemed a violation of US election law.
"It would have been done in any event, whether he was a candidate or not," Mr Giuliani said about the payment in his statement. "My references to timing were not describing my understanding of the president's knowledge, but instead, my understanding of these matters".
Mr Trump appeared to take his previous statement back about his knowledge of the payment to Ms Daniels, but said today that "we're not changing any stories," adding that “Rudy had just started and he wasn’t totally familiar with everything". It implied that Mr Giuliani may have gotten something wrong in his interview that night and subsequent comments about the payment, but the president was unclear about what exactly was inaccurate.
The president fell back on his consistent claim of "totally false" reporting by media outlets and encouraged reporters to re-watch statements he has made in the past on the matter. "All I’m telling you that this country is right now running so smooth and to be bringing up that kind of crap and bringing up witch hunts all the time. That’s all you want to talk about," Mr Trump complained, adding comments about the low unemployment rate.
As for Mr Cohen, the beleaguered lawyer had admitted to paying the nearly $130,000 of his own money - not election coffers - just before as part of a nondisclosure agreement. Ms Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, is suing Mr Trump for the right to speak about the affair and claiming that Mr Trump never actually signed the document. Her lawyer has also asked a judge to allow him to depose the president and Mr Cohen.
Working on a reference from special prosecutor Robert Mueller, who is investigating alleged collusion between Mr Trump's 2016 campaign team and Russian officials, the FBI also raided Mr Cohen's home, office, and hotel room in April. Mr Cohen told CNN that he "would be lying to you if I told that I am not” worried about the FBI investigation. “Do I need this in my life? No. Do I want to be involved in this? No,” he added.
He commented that the raid of his home, office, and the hotel where he is currently staying was “upsetting to say the least” and said after seeing what the investigation has done to his family, in hindsight he would have handled the payment to Ms Daniels differently.
There is also the matter of the possible violation of federal ethics law despite the confusion of what Mr Giuliani and Mr Trump have said. Congressman Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight committee said the president should have disclosed the supposed repayment to Mr Cohen on his public financial disclosure form and said concealing such a debt is a crime. Mr Cummings has urged Republicans on the committee to investigate the matter and find out when Mr Trump knew about the payment and purpose of the payment as well as where the funds came from.
The president is in Dallas, Texas, to speak at a National Rifle Association (NRA) convention.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies