RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
President Trump is acknowledging a new revelation in the Stormy Daniels scandal. Here's what happened. Last night, the president's new lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, went on Fox News and said that the president reimbursed Michael Cohen for the money that he paid the adult film star Stormy Daniels to keep an alleged affair quiet. Fox anchor Sean Hannity asked Giuliani if Trump knew what that payment was for.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "HANNITY")
SEAN HANNITY: That's what Michael would say.
RUDY GIULIANI: He didn't know about the specifics of it, as far as I know. 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.
MARTIN: This morning, President Trump tried to explain further on Twitter what this payment was all about. Joining us now - NPR national justice correspondent Carrie Johnson.
CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Good morning, Rachel.
MARTIN: So the president on Twitter this morning trying to explain, he says, that this payment that Cohen made - $130,000 to Stormy Daniels, also known as Stephanie Clifford, her real name - that this was part of a regular retainer that he was paying Michael Cohen, that Cohen paid this money to Stormy Daniels and that the president paid him back, but that the money that he was reimbursed came from just his regular payments to Cohen.
JOHNSON: That's right, Rachel. The key point here that Rudy Giuliani was trying to make on Fox last night, and maybe got lost in translation and that Donald Trump once again is trying to make on Twitter this morning, is that money from his campaign or any campaign contributions played no role in this transaction, this alleged hush money payment by Michael Cohen to Stormy Daniels to cover up an alleged affair with Donald Trump. And what they want to say is, this is not a campaign finance violation. There are already watchdog groups out there that have filed complaints with the Federal Election Commission and the Justice Department over this. And what these guys are trying to say is, this is a personal transaction, has nothing to do with campaign finance laws. There are a couple of problems with that including, one, is that Michael Cohen made this payment shortly before the election. But we'll see what happens there.
MARTIN: So does this stand in contrast to what the president has said before? Because he has maintained all along that he didn't have this affair. But he has also said that he had no idea about this payment that Michael Cohen made. Now, though, Giuliani and even the president in this tweet suggesting that the payment - he did, in fact, reimburse Cohen for this.
JOHNSON: Yeah, Rachel, remember just last month on Air Force One, Donald Trump was asked point blank whether he knew about the payment from Michael Cohen to Stormy Daniels. He said no. He said he didn't know what the source of the funds were. And then he said in response to other questions, ask Michael - ask Michael Cohen. Now the president seems to be suggesting he had more knowledge than he shared with the public just a month ago. Rudy Giuliani is saying that Trump made these payments through a retainer arrangement with Michael Cohen through the course of 2017 after the election. But obviously, folks are going to want to demand proof of that or some kind of documentary evidence.
MARTIN: Why does any of this matter? I mean, in particular, does it have any effect on Robert Mueller and the special counsel's investigation?
JOHNSON: Well, there are a couple things going on here. One is, remember, Michael Cohen was the subject of major raids in his hotel room, his residence and his business office very shortly - a short time ago. The FBI raided his offices and collected a lot of information. He's in a fight with the government now over what kind of information the government can see. Prosecutors in New York say they are investigating him criminally. So any involvement Michael Cohen may have in an alleged campaign finance scandal would certainly play into part of this investigation. The other thing, Rachel, is that Michael Cohen may have a lot more information about Donald Trump and the Trump campaign that people like the special counsel, Robert Mueller, would want to know. And as the pressure increases on Michael Cohen, he may be more susceptible to wanting to make a deal. So far, he's denied all wrongdoing, said he's not going to flip on the president. But the legal pressure on him is intense, and it's only going to go greater.
MARTIN: And briefly, Carrie, we mentioned Rudy Giuliani, new addition to Trump's legal team, but there's someone else. Emmet Flood is in. Ty Cobb, one of the president's lawyers, is out. What does this signify?
JOHNSON: Ty Cobb was the primary voice of cooperation with the special counsel inside the White House. Now he's retiring. Instead, the White House is bringing in Emmet Flood, best known for defending President Bill Clinton in his impeachment proceedings and defending other White Houses in claims of executive privilege. Emmet Flood appears to be much more antagonistic toward special prosecutors than Ty Cobb was, and he could be setting up for a fight here.
MARTIN: NPR's Carrie Johnson. Thanks so much.
JOHNSON: You're welcome.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.