Trump grows frustrated with Giuliani as headlines swirl
Washington – President Donald Trump is growing increasingly irritated with lawyer Rudy Giuliani’s frequently off-message media blitz, in which he has muddied the waters on hush money paid to porn actress Stormy Daniels and made claims that could complicate the president’s standing in the special counsel’s Russia probe.
Trump has begun questioning whether Giuliani, the former New York City mayor, should be sidelined from television interviews, according to two people familiar with the president’s thinking but not authorized to speak publicly about private discussions.
Trump also expressed annoyance that Giuliani’s theatrics have breathed new life into the Daniels story and extended its lifespan. It’s a concern shared by Trump allies who think Giuliani is only generating more legal and political trouble for the White House.
Giuliani, the newest addition to the president’s legal team, first rattled the White House last week when he sat for interviews on Fox News and seemed to contradict Trump’s previous statements by saying the president was aware of the October 2016 payout to Daniels from his personal attorney, Michael Cohen. He also suggested the settlement with Daniels had been made because Trump was in the stretch run of his presidential campaign.
After Trump chided Giuliani on Friday, saying the lawyer needed to “get his facts straight,” the former mayor put out a statement trying to clarify his remarks. But in weekend interviews, Giuliani appeared to dig himself a deeper hole by acknowledging that “Cohen takes care of situations like this, then gets paid for them sometimes.” He did not rule out the possibility that Cohen had paid off other women.
Trump, who has denied the affair with Daniels, was angry that Giuliani had given the impression that other women may make similar charges of infidelity, according to the people familiar with his views.
Additionally, Trump has grown agitated in recent days by cable news replays of Giuliani’s Wednesday interview with Sean Hannity, in which he first said that Trump knew about the payment but claimed it wouldn’t be a campaign violation. A clearly surprised Hannity then asked, “Because they funneled it through the law firm?”
To which Giuliani responded, “Funneled it through the law firm, and the president repaid him.”
Trump snapped at both men in recent days, chiding Hannity for using the word “funneled,” which he believes had illegal connotations, according to the people. As for Giuliani, the president has not yet signaled to him to stop appearing on television, but told a confidant recently that perhaps his new lawyer should “be benched” at least temporarily, if he can’t improve his performance.
The president has not publicly discussed dismissing Giuliani and has been appreciative of his sharp attacks on the Russia investigation and his forceful battles with the press, according to three White House aides and outside allies. The two men have spoken frequently, according to officials familiar with their interactions.
But many Trump allies both inside and outside the White House have grown anxious in recent days about Giuliani’s whirlwind and unpredictable interviews.
“They’re admitting to enough that warrants scrutiny. It shouldn’t be put on television shows off the cuff,” said Alan Dershowitz, the emeritus Harvard law professor who has been informally advising Trump on the Russia collusion probe.
Giuliani did not respond to requests for comment.
West Wing aides were blindsided by Giuliani’s TV appearances last week and many senior advisers and members of the president’s legal team have been cut out of the decision-making process. But some aides have been reluctant to broach the subject with Trump because it only increases their liability, according to officials.
Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who was among those surprised by Giuliani’s string of TV appearances, said Monday that Trump felt the former mayor “added value” to his outside legal team.
Some West Wing aides have complained that Giuliani was acting like a “principal” and not a member of a team.
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