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Trump Undercuts Giuliani About Payments to Stormy Daniels

Adult film actress Stormy Daniels, left, follows her attorney Michael Avenatti, right, as she leaves federal court, Monday, April 16, 2018, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Adult film actress Stormy Daniels, left, follows her attorney Michael Avenatti, right, as she leaves federal court, Monday, April 16, 2018, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Published May 4, 2018

WASHINGTON ? President Donald Trump undercut his attorney Rudy Giuliani on Friday, and said the former New York mayor will eventually get the facts right regarding a payment to a pornographic actress who said she had an affair with Trump.

"And virtually everything said has been said incorrectly, and it's been said wrong, or it's been covered wrong by the press," Trump said.

Giuliani, who joined Trump's legal team last month, "just started a day ago," Trump said, speaking to reporters Friday as he left Washington to attend a National Rifle Association convention in Dallas.

"He is a great guy," Trump said. "He'll get his facts straight."

It was the first time the president addressed the inconsistent narrative about the payment made by his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, to the actress, Stephanie Clifford, who goes by the stage name Stormy Daniels. Trump did not offer any details Friday to clarify the confusion, but said, "It's actually very simple. But there has been a lot of misinformation."

Giuliani released a statement Friday trying to clarify the confusion, saying that his "references to timing were not describing my understanding of the president's knowledge, but instead, my understanding of these matters." He also said there had been no campaign violations in the matter.

The comments capped a week of evolving facts surrounding the Oval Office.

The American public learned its president, once described by a doctor as "the healthiest individual ever elected," actually wrote that description himself, leaving his health ranking among those who held the office before him a mystery. Trump also hired an attorney he previously had denied recruiting. And the president contradicted himself when, this week, he said he paid back Cohen for the $130,000 given to Clifford just days before the election. Last month, the president said he did not know anything about the transaction.

Giuliani kicked off the confusion about the payment with an interview on Fox News on Wednesday, surprising even some of Trump's other attorneys.

In a series of Twitter posts the following morning, the president backed up what Giuliani said. But, on Friday, Trump added more confusion by saying that everything said "has been said incorrectly."

"You know what? Learn before you speak. It's a lot easier," the president said.

Trump also sought Friday to dispel reports of tension between him and John F. Kelly, his chief of staff, telling reporters that "we have a great relationship. He's doing a great job as chief of staff. I could not be more happy. So I just want to tell you that."

A New York Times report this week documented the "cold truce" between the two men as Trump has soured on Kelly's efforts to impose order on the chaotic White House. The story noted that Trump has taken to venting about his chief of staff to friends, while Kelly complains that "I don't need this" after dressing-downs from the president.

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An earlier report from NBC News suggested that Kelly had called the president "an idiot" in private and viewed himself as the only bulwark against chaotic decision-making and dangerous decisions by Trump.

On Friday, Kelly accompanied the president on the Marine One helicopter ride from the White House to Joint Base Andrews, where Air Force One was waiting to take Trump to Dallas. In a public appearance seemingly designed to underscore their relationship, Kelly and Trump walked together from the helicopter to a group of reporters waiting nearby.

"The New York Times has falsely reported, said things that are absolutely false. So I just want to tell you that," Trump said, turning to Kelly to make comments.

The president also addressed the ongoing special counsel investigation, led by Robert Mueller, and said he would be happy to sit down and answer Mueller's questions. But he said that the investigation is a witch hunt being run by Democrats, and his lawyers will not let him.

"I would love to speak. I would love to. Nobody wants to speak more than me," Trump said. But the investigation "is a very unfair thing. If I thought it was fair, I would override my lawyers."

Trump incorrectly said Mueller worked for former President Barack Obama for eight years. Mueller, a longtime Republican, was appointed by former President George W. Bush. He served his 10-year-term as the FBI director, and Obama asked him to stay on for another two years. Obama then named James Comey to the post, and he served during the rest of the Obama administration. Trump fired Comey a year ago, a move that ultimately led to Mueller's appointment.

(STORY CAN END HERE. OPTIONAL MATERIAL FOLLOWS.)

Trump also discussed the current negotiations with North Korea and said his administration was in constant contact about the fate of three Americans held there. On Thursday, Giuliani said the Americans would be released that day.

"A lot of things have already happened with respect to the hostages," Trump said. "And I think you're going to see very good things."

Trump denied he would use reductions in U.S. troops in South Korea as a bargaining chip in upcoming negotiations with North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Un. The New York Times reported Thursday that Trump had ordered the Pentagon to develop options for troop reductions.

The president acknowledged that, in the long-term, he wanted to cut troops. "I have to tell you that at some point into the future, I would like to save the money," he said. "You know, we have 32,000 troops there."

But he said that nobody was pressing the United States to reduce troops at the moment, adding, "Troops are not on the table, absolutely."

Trump said the United States and North Korea had agreed on a date and place for the meeting and would announce it very soon.

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