RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
We learned something new about the Stormy Daniels scandal last night when the president's new lawyer Rudy Giuliani went on Fox News. In an interview with Sean Hannity, Giuliani confirmed that President Trump paid his personal lawyer Michael Cohen back for hush money given to the adult film actress.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE SEAN HANNITY SHOW")
RUDY GIULIANI: That was money that was paid by his lawyer, the way I would do, out of his law firm funds, or, whatever funds - doesn't matter. That president reimbursed that over a period of several months.
MARTIN: President Trump has previously denied any knowledge of this payment which came shortly before the election as part of a settlement agreement concerning an alleged 2006 sexual encounter with Stormy Daniels. We've got NPR's Domenico Montanaro with us to talk about this this morning. Hey, Domenico.
DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Hey there.
MARTIN: All right. So if the president paid Michael Cohen this hundred-and-30-thousand dollars, reimbursed him, does that mean that Trump knew what the money was for?
MONTANARO: Well, I mean, President Trump had said before that he didn't know about the specific payment. You know, he stood on Air Force One and he told reporters that he didn't know about the payment to Stormy Daniels, he didn't know where Cohen got the money and denied that it had come from him. Now, it's a fine line on whether those were lies because Giuliani's saying that Trump made repayments to Cohen over several months, but as far as he knows Trump didn't know about the specifics, just knew in general terms and that Cohen really would kind of take care of things like this, is what Giuliani said.
MARTIN: And he would just pay. He was on some kind of retainer, or he was just paying Michael Cohen back for the work that he was doing, and Giuliani arguing here that the president might not specifically have known about this particular reimbursement.
MONTANARO: Right. Not specifically about this, but he knew in general terms that Cohen does things like this and repaid him over several months.
MARTIN: So it is not illegal to have an affair, right? And, as far as I know, it's not illegal to pay someone to keep quiet about it. The question, the legal question here has always been whether or not campaign funds were used? Giuliani seemed to try to put that to rest last night, right? What'd he say?
MONTANARO: Yeah. And it's not just campaign funds being used. That's the interesting part here because Giuliani says, you know, it didn't come through the campaign, that it was funneled through a law firm. But some watchdog groups say that that, you know, still doesn't shield the president totally from potential campaign finance violations. In fact, it could open him up to a felony for knowingly and willfully causing his campaign to file an incomplete or false report. Of course, you would only be guilty of that if you knew that the purpose of the payment was to influence the campaign. Now, it's hard to argue that it wasn't for the purpose of influencing the campaign, given that it came just days before the 2016 election. But again, also the FEC, the Federal Election Commission, has been fairly toothless in the last several years, really only leveling fines at a lot of people. So their enforcement is kind of difficult to see.
MARTIN: All right. The other big news yesterday, some more transition on the president's legal team. Ty Cobb is out, and a man named Emmett Flood is in.
MARTIN: Why does this matter?
MONTANARO: Cobb, you know, was somebody who took a kind of cooperative approach to the Mueller investigation. He didn't want to speak badly of them. He tried to be helpful in providing documents from the White House. The president's grown somewhat irritated with that kind of approach, wants a more aggressive and assertive stance. Flood is someone who is known to likely want to do that. We've seen the president also make threatening tweets about possible firings at the Justice Department so I think we're in for a lot more drama in the next several months.
MARTIN: All right. NPR's Domenico Montanaro for us this morning. Thanks so much, Domenico.
MONTANARO: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.