To recap quickly:
• In April, a reporter asked Donald Trump the following question: “Did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?” Trump said “No.” In response to a follow-up question about where his attorney/fixer Michael Cohen had gotten the money to make the payment, which took place in October 2016, he said, “I don’t know.”
• Wednesday, Trump legal adviser Rudy Giuliani told Sean Hannity that Trump had “repaid” and “reimbursed” Cohen for the payment, which would suggest that Trump, at least at some point, knew about it and knew how it was funded and had been lying in April.
• Thursday, Giuliani tried to explain the contradiction between his statements and Trump’s by claiming that he himself had only recently showed Trump documents indicating that Trump had reimbursed the Daniels payment. The implication is that Trump had paid Cohen at arm’s length without knowing specifically what his money was being used for.
• Friday, Trump told reporters that Giuliani “wasn’t totally familiar” with the situation and had made “certain statements” that were inaccurate; a friend of Cohen’s said on MSNBC that Cohen had told him Giuliani “doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”
Giuliani has now released a written statement about Trump and Daniels, but it does not make things any more clear. Here’s the part relevant to the question of whether Trump knew about the payment:
My references to timing were not describing my understanding of the President’s knowledge, but instead, my understanding of these matters.
What Giuliani seems to be claiming—although it’s hard to tell, given the “translation of an abstruse 19th-century work of German philosophy” vibe his wording gives off—is that Trump having reimbursed the payment doesn’t count as Trump having “knowledge” of the payment. The idea seems to be that Rudy knows that certain payments from Trump to Cohen constituted Daniels reimbursement, but that Trump doesn’t know that, or at least didn’t when he said publicly that he knew nothing about the matter.
Giuliani’s statement does not, however, disavow the premise that he seems to have been working with when he launched his media tour on Wednesday: that the payment to Daniels can ultimately be traced to Trump’s personal funds, and as such could not have constituted an illegal undeclared campaign expense. One of Giuliani’s other problems, though, is that this isn’t true—what makes it a campaign expense is whether it was made for a campaign-related purpose, not which bank account it came out of—and on Thursday he said on Fox News that Cohen had to pay Daniels because her affair allegations would have been damaging if they, for instance, “came out on Oct. 15, 2016, in the middle of the last debate with Hillary Clinton.” On that front, the new Giuliani statement essentially asks for a do-over, asserting that “the payment was made in order to resolve a personal and false allegation in order to protect the President’s family” and “would have been done in any event, whether he was a candidate or not.”
So, that’s all cleared up—no reason for anyone to ask questions about the matter ever again!