The scandal involving President Donald Trump, his personal attorney Michael Cohen, and adult film star Stormy Daniels unraveled in early March, as team Trump confirmed a story he had spent the past months denying.
In a series of statements, tweets, and on-air appearances, the president and his defenders have changed their statements in the months since then. Here’s how:
First, what Stormy Daniels has alleged:
- Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, first gave a full interview detailing a one night stand and months-long contact with Trump to In Touch magazine in 2006, five years before his personal attorney would send her $130,000 just 10 days before the 2016 election.
The story was buried after Trump’s personal attorney reportedly threatened to sue the magazine.
On March 6, Daniels filed a suit that the non-disclosure agreement Cohen had her sign in October 2016 was void because it was missing Trump’s signature.
After that, she started doing interviews to tell her side of the story. On March 25, she appeared on “60 Minutes”, and said Trump told her in 2006 “you remind me of my daughter” after she spanked him with a magazine, that they allegedly had unprotected sex, and that he told her “not to worry” about his wife or newborn son at the time.
Daniels said a man threatened her and her infant daughter in 2011, releasing a composite sketch of him on April 17. When Trump tweeted the photo and called the stunt a”total con job“, Daniels sued him for defamation.
What Michael Cohen has said over time:
- Yana Paskova/Getty Images
Though he’s at the center of the payments in question, Cohen has had some of the most combative answers relaying the facts of this case.
In a matter of three months, Cohen denied, admitted, and took the blame for the payment to Daniels before resigning to relative silence amid three separate investigations into his actions.
January 17: “An old and debunked story”
Cohen denied any affair with Trump or payment to Daniels in an email to The New York Times, saying the story was “old news that wasn’t true then, not true now.”
February 13: “The payment was lawful”
Cohen then admitted to paying Daniels and told The Times that the settlement was a private transaction.
“Neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms. Clifford, and neither reimbursed me for the payment, either directly or indirectly,” Mr. Cohen said in a statement to the Times. “The payment to Ms. Clifford was lawful, and was not a campaign contribution or a campaign expenditure by anyone.”
March 9: “I wired it to an IOLA account in Beverly Hills”
Cohen released an October 2016 email from his Trump Organization account in a statement to ABC News, saying it was proof of a money transfer between accounts at First Republic Bank two weeks before the presidential election, which he said was to pay Daniels.
April 25: Pleading the 5th
Cohen’s lawyer said he would invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in the Daniels case amid the heightened criminal investigation.
What Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani has said over time:
- Thomson Reuters
Newly appointed attorney Rudy Giuliani exceeded what any member of Trump’s orbit had previously said about the payment within days of joining Trump’s legal team.
May 2: “The president repaid it”
In an on-air interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity, Giuliani said Trump reimbursed Cohen for the payment and referred to it as a retainer that was paid “over several months”. That revelation contradicted what Trump had been saying for weeks.
“He didn’t know about the specifics of it, as far as I know,” Giuliani said when asked whether Trump knew the payment was to Daniels. “But he did know about the general arrangement, that Michael would take care of things like this, like I take care of things like this for my clients. I don’t burden them with every single thing that comes along. These are busy people.”
ðxa¨ Giuliani says Trumprepaid Cohen the $130,000 used as hush money for Stormy Danielspic.twitter.com/pqNtZthgwf
— Jon Passantino (@passantino) May 3, 2018
May 3: “Cohen made it go away”
Opening Trump up to legal jeopardy under campaign finance laws, Giuliani appeared on “Fox & Friends” and said Cohen was being “treated like some kind of villain” for trying to help Trump’s family – as opposed to the Trump campaign.
“Imagine if that came out on October 15, 2016, in the middle of the last debate with Hillary Clinton,” Giuliani said. “Cohen made it go away. He did his job.”
May 4: “There is no campaign violation”
“There is no campaign violation,” Giuliani said in a statement. “The payment was made to resolve a personal and false allegation in order to protect the President’s family. It would have been done in any event, whether he was a candidate or not.”
He added: “My references to the timing were not describing my understanding of the President’s knowledge, but instead, my understanding of these matters.”
— ABC News (@ABC) May 4, 2018
May 5: “I’m not an expert on the facts yet”
“This is, you know, 1.2 million documents. I’ve been in the case for two weeks. Virtually one day, in comparison to other people. So I’m not an expert on the facts, yet. I’m getting there,” Giuliani said on Fox News. “The fact is there is no way this is a campaign finance violation of any kind, nor was it a loan. It was an expenditure.”
He added: “Even if it was a campaign donation, the president reimbursed it fully with a payment of $35,000 a month that paid for that and other expenses. No need to go beyond that. Case over.”
May 6: It’s possible Cohen paid off other women to stay silent about alleged affairs with Trump
Calling the $130,000 a “nuisance payment,” Giuliani told ABC’s “This Week” that he didn’t know whether Cohen had made other payments, adding, “I would think if it was necessary, yes. He made payments for the president or he’s conducted business for the president.”
What President Donald Trump has said over time:
- Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Finally, Trump himself has pointed blame in many different directions in his statements on TV, on Twitter, and in press interviews.
March 26: “So much Fake News”
Trump tweeted about “Fake News” one day after Daniels’ tell-all interview with “60 Minutes.”
So much Fake News. Never been more voluminous or more inaccurate. But through it all, our country is doing great!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 26, 2018
April 5: “No”
Aboard Air Force One, replied “no” to a reporter asking if he knew about any payments Daniels had described, and told reporters to instead ask Cohen. It was his first public comment on the $130,000 payment.
May 3: “This was a private agreement”
After Giuliani said on air that Trump had repaid Cohen for the hush money, Trump tweeted to defend Giuliani’s statements and explained the payments were a retainer and that the money was not related to his campaign.
Mr. Cohen, an attorney, received a monthly retainer, not from the campaign and having nothing to do with the campaign, from which he entered into, through reimbursement, a private contract between two parties, known as a non-disclosure agreement, or NDA. These agreements are…..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 3, 2018
…very common among celebrities and people of wealth. In this case it is in full force and effect and will be used in Arbitration for damages against Ms. Clifford (Daniels). The agreement was used to stop the false and extortionist accusations made by her about an affair,……
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 3, 2018
…despite already having signed a detailed letter admitting that there was no affair. Prior to its violation by Ms. Clifford and her attorney, this was a private agreement. Money from the campaign, or campaign contributions, played no roll in this transaction.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 3, 2018
May 4: “Virtually everything said has been said incorrectly”
A day after tweeting in Giuliani’s defense, Trump called the resulting firestorm a “witch hunt” and vaguely criticized the candid revelations, saying Giuliani will “get his facts straight” with time.
What White House officials have said over time:
The president’s spokespeople have had many, many questions about the Daniels scandal, and have provided varying answers over time.
March 7: “No knowledge of the payments from the president”
In a White House press briefing, Sanders said she had discussed the payments with the president and that he had “denied” the allegations.
Sarah Sanders in March:”There was no knowledge of any payments.” https://t.co/ZXJLPSAnNw
Sarah Sanders today: “This is something we at the White Housecan’t comment on, and I would refer you to [Giuliani’s]comments and the president’s tweets from earlier thismorning.”
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) May 3, 2018
March 26: White House denies all of Daniels’ claims
After Daniels’ “60 Minutes” interview aired, White House principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah told reporters during the press briefing that Trump was standing by his version of the story.
“I can say categorically, obviously, that the White House did not engage in any wrongdoing. The campaign or Mr. Cohen can address anything with respect to their actions,” Shah said.
“With respect to that interview, I will say that the president strongly, clearly, and has consistently denied these underlying claims, and the only one who has been inconsistent is the one making the claims.”
May 3: “The president didn’t know at the time”
Sanders revealed at a White House press briefing that she first learned about the payments from Giuliani’s interview the night before and defended Giuliani’s comment that “This was information that the president didn’t know at the time, but eventually learned.”
.@ZekeJMiller on Stormy Daniels payment: "Why the president was not truthful with the American people and with the people in this room?"@PressSec: "This was information that the president didn't know at the time, but eventually learned." https://t.co/bKj6YR7zzK pic.twitter.com/NZVKHBWuON
— CBS News (@CBSNews) May 3, 2018
May 6: Trump meant something else when he said “no.”
Counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway said Trump denying knowledge of the hush payments on April 5 referred to not knowing at the time the payment occurred – not at the time when the question was asked – which she said she clarified with him in private.