Last week, President Trump's new lawyer Rudy Giuliani may have implicated him in new federal crimes, experts say, which has oddsmakers chattering about the likelihood Trump will be removed from office.
Last week during interviews with Fox News and the "New York Times," Giuliani contradicted Trump statements about the Russia inquiry and Stormy Daniels hush-money scandal: Yes, the president knew about the payment his lawyer Michael Cohen made to Daniels, said Giuliani; yes, the president reimbursed Cohen out of his own pocket, in installments of $35,000 — and by the way, Trump fired FBI Director James Comey because Comey wouldn't assure Trump that he wasn't a target of the Russia investigation.
On the matter of the Daniels payment, Giuliani apparently attempted to quash allegations of campaign-finance wrongdoing by saying Cohen was repaid from Trump's personal funds, not campaign coffers. But that disclosure has its own problems: Namely, the previous lack of disclosure. "It seems that Trump in effect received a loan from Cohen that he later paid back, yet Trump apparently did not disclose that loan on the financial disclosure for 2016 that Trump filed in 2017,” Kathleen Clark, an ethics and law professor at Washington University, told Vanity Fair. “Failing to disclose that loan might constitute a false statement to the federal government, a criminal violation.”
Repaying the money in installments could be fraud in itself, says political writer Gregg Levine, who tweeted, "RudyG said the Cohen payment to Stormy Daniels was reimbursed by Trump, through a bank, in installments. That is structuring. That is bank fraud. That is a felony. That is what put former Speaker Hastert in jail."
And on the matter of Trump's motivation for firing Comey, Giuliani may have just straight-out argued that Trump committed obstruction of justice. "We know that special counsel Robert Mueller, who inherited the investigation Comey began, has been asking witnesses about possible obstruction of justice tied to the Comey firing," said Chris Cillizza of CNN. "Giuliani's explanation that Trump fired Comey because the then FBI director was unable to provide him ironclad assurances that he wasn't a target of an ongoing investigation certainly seems like the sort of thing Mueller might be interested in."
On Monday, MSNBC's Ari Melber was confused about Giuliani's strategy. "ok I’m catching up on the last few days of news—and at times it’s hard to tell whether Rudy is the lawyer defending Trump or the lawyer suing him?" he tweeted.
ok I’m catching up on the last few days of news —— Ari Melber (@AriMelber) May 7, 2018
and at times it’s hard to tell whether Rudy is the lawyer defending Trump or the lawyer suing him?
For those counting, Giuliani's comments last week suggest Trump committed three federal crimes. “Giuliani seemingly thought he was doing President Trump a favor — but instead made Trump’s legal problems much, much worse,” said Paul S. Ryan of the government watchdog group Common Cause in the "New York Times."
While odds of Trump's impeachment on the prediction-market site PredictIt have been flat for weeks — giving Trump almost two-thirds odds of staying in office through 2019 — at least one Washington insider rang the alarm right after Giuliani's comments. "Donald Trump’s legal jeopardy has increased dramatically in the last 48 hours," said Greg Valliere, chief global strategist of D.C.-based Horizon Investments, on Thursday. "Our sources in both parties are now talking openly about an impeachment scenario that could drag well into 2019."