Toobin: Trump team lying about Stormy hush money

Rudy Giuliani says President Trump didn't know the details of hush money given to Stormy Daniels.

Posted: May 4, 2018 6:46 PM
Updated: May 4, 2018 6:46 PM

Prosecutors have a venerable piece of advice that they often pass along to witnesses. "Always tell the truth," they say, "It's easier to remember."

Of course, the main reason witnesses (and everyone else) should tell the truth is because it's the right thing to do. But the advice from prosecutors gets at a different point. Lies beget more lies, and more lies generate more confusion, and soon the lies cause more trouble than whatever caused the controversy in the first place. This phenomenon is at the heart of President Donald Trump's current legal problems.

Consider the matter of Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels, who is now America's most famous adult film performer. She asserts that she and the President had sex once in 2006. Five years later, a supermarket tabloid recounted their alleged sexual encounter.

And five years after that, at the climax of the 2016 presidential campaign, Michael Cohen, Trump's lawyer and fixer, arranged for a shell corporation to pay Daniels $130,000 for her agreement to remain silent about her relationship with the then-presidential candidate. To this point, the story is seedy but almost certainly legal.

The lies and omissions started almost immediately. As Rudolph Giuliani, the President's new lawyer, acknowledged Wednesday on Fox News, Daniels was paid because disclosure of her story on the eve of the election would have hurt Trump's chances. And who paid Daniels?

For months, Trump and his allies stonewalled -- that is, lied. Trump himself said he knew nothing about the payments,Sarah Huckabee Sanders, his press secretary -- presumably relying on the word of her boss -- said the same thing. Cohen himself put forward the implausible story that he paid the whole amount out of his own pocket as a reflection of his love for the Trump family.

Also on Fox Wednesday, Giuliani told an astonished Sean Hannity that Trump had indeed reimbursed Cohen for the payments to Daniels -- and he did so, according to Giuliani, in some peculiar and imprecise series of monthly payments.

Consider, alternatively, if Trump's team had told the truth from the start. He would have made a campaign report of a payment to Daniels, and that could have resulted in an embarrassing, but short-lived story.

Instead, the lies caused the Daniels fiasco to metastasize into a genuine crisis. Was there a campaign finance violation by Cohen -- or by Trump himself? Did Trump file a false financial disclosure report, or a false tax return, based on improper accounting for a gift? Did anyone (Trump or Cohen, for example) make a false statement to a bank in connection with this payment? And even now, do we really know who supplied the money to pay off Daniels?

Then of course there is the political (and moral) fallout of the falsehoods: why, now, should the public believe anything Trump says after he so obviously misled the public on this subject of wide public interest?

Trump's prevarications also made a mess of the even more consequential story of the firing of James Comey, the FBI director, in May of last year. The simple question of why Trump fired Comey has produced a still-changing collection of answers.

The White House originally said Comey was fired for mishandling the investigation of Hillary Clinton's emails. Then Trump himself told NBC's Lester Holt that the real reason was "the Russia thing" -- that is, to relieve the burden of the FBI's Russia investigation. (Trump apparently said a similar thing to a group of visiting Russian diplomats in the Oval Office.)

Wednesday, Giuliani offered still another explanation -- that Trump fired Comey because the director would not publicly clear the President in the Russia investigation.

Trump and his supporters have made the argument that the President had the right to fire Comey for any reason, or no reason at all. (This is legally questionable.) But surely settling on even a suspicious reason for firing Comey is better than the evolving story that the Trump camp has provided.

Multiple explanations succeed only in arousing suspicion -- which the President and his allies seem by now to richly deserve.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 447349

Reported Deaths: 6007
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin929301478
Ramsey39917738
Dakota32945340
Anoka30935364
Washington20116227
Stearns17847187
St. Louis13658241
Scott1193296
Wright11598104
Olmsted1045075
Sherburne820665
Carver693436
Clay651680
Rice605268
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Blue Earth539933
Crow Wing482574
Otter Tail456367
Chisago452032
Benton419586
Winona388046
Douglas373966
Nobles369646
Mower364729
Goodhue346858
Polk328256
McLeod324745
Morrison311544
Beltrami309947
Lyon301136
Becker284639
Itasca284543
Isanti282441
Carlton279443
Steele27279
Pine266613
Freeborn244621
Todd231730
Nicollet224036
Brown214734
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Cass207623
Meeker199433
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Martin169926
Roseau165416
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Fillmore12315
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Rock110112
Sibley10847
Aitkin108033
Watonwan10638
Faribault105716
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Murray8815
Jackson85310
Swift83418
Pope7385
Marshall70315
Stevens7018
Clearwater68514
Lac qui Parle65716
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Koochiching59510
Lincoln4831
Big Stone4563
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Grant4298
Norman4238
Mahnomen4107
Kittson37219
Red Lake3164
Traverse2503
Lake of the Woods1931
Cook1140

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 304391

Reported Deaths: 4270
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk45574448
Linn17742274
Scott15414163
Black Hawk13696236
Woodbury12968175
Johnson1207549
Dubuque11348150
Pottawattamie8959112
Dallas885171
Story865434
Webster468271
Cerro Gordo464768
Sioux454456
Clinton449461
Warren440738
Marshall426561
Buena Vista392329
Muscatine388477
Des Moines381041
Plymouth349768
Wapello342398
Jasper321258
Lee315830
Marion303852
Jones270649
Henry263830
Carroll253934
Bremer242648
Crawford229422
Boone217017
Washington216831
Benton209244
Mahaska191836
Jackson191431
Tama186657
Dickinson185026
Delaware173036
Kossuth172143
Clay167319
Wright163624
Fayette161122
Buchanan159123
Hamilton158729
Winneshiek155219
Harrison154862
Hardin154429
Cedar152519
Clayton151348
Butler147324
Page144215
Floyd138836
Cherokee138427
Mills136216
Lyon134832
Poweshiek132424
Hancock129824
Allamakee127627
Iowa124322
Calhoun12209
Grundy120526
Jefferson120124
Madison11999
Winnebago118729
Mitchell116134
Louisa114730
Cass112841
Chickasaw110912
Sac110915
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Appanoose110138
Union108222
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Guthrie102924
Shelby102126
Franklin101718
Unassigned9230
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Keokuk84926
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Howard83119
Monroe80918
Clarke7927
Pocahontas77611
Ida74130
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Greene6917
Adair68720
Lucas6488
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Osceola6389
Worth6063
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