The White House is now in a full-blown panic over Stormy Daniels
Donald Trump, Stormy Daniels, and Michael Cohen. (Credit: Gage Skidmore, Thomas Hawk, IowaPolitics)

In a Fox News appearance on Wednesday, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani managed to worsen President Donald Trump's legal predicament, despite being hired to the White House legal team for the purpose of clearing up the growing cloud of scandal over 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

This article was originally published at Salon

"I was talking about the $130,000 payment, the settlement payment, which is a very regular thing for lawyers to do," Giuliani told Fox News host Sean Hannity, regarding the hush money paid to porn star Stormy Daniels (real name: Stephanie Clifford) for her alleged affair with Trump. "The question there was, the only possible violation there would be, was it a campaign finance violation? Which usually would result in a fine, by the way, not this big Stormtroopers coming in and breaking down his apartment and breaking down his office."

He added, "That was money that was paid by his lawyer, the way I would do, out of his law firm forms or whatever funds, doesn't matter. The president reimbursed that over a period of several months."

As a staunch supporter of Trump, Hannity was quick to point out that the president's attorney, Michael Cohen, had previously insisted that he had paid Daniels entirely on his own. The question seemed to catch Giuliani off guard.

"He did? Look, I don't know," Giuliani told Hannity. "I haven't investigated that. No reason to dispute that. No reason to dispute his recollection."

The former New York City mayor then quickly changed the subject.

"I like Michael a lot. You like Michael a lot. I feel very bad he's been victimized like this," Giuliani told Hannity. "The president feels even worse. The fact is, just trust me, they're gonna come up with no violations there. The payments are perfectly legal! All documented."

Michael Avenatti, the famously colorful and outspoken lawyer representing Stormy Daniels, told MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell that he hoped people would be "outraged" at the fact that Giuliani's statement proved Trump and his team had lied about the controversial payment.

"I am rarely, as your viewers know, rendered speechless, but I am absolutely speechless at this revelation and this admission. And I hope that your viewers, and I hope the American people, upon hearing this and watching that clip . . . They should be outraged," Avenatti told O'Donnell. "I don't care whether you're on the left or on the right or in the center. I don't care what your party affiliation is. You deserve to be told the truth by your president and the people that stand at the podium at the White House briefing station or podium at the White House press conference and answer questions. I don't care what your political persuasion is, that's what you deserve as an American citizen."

Avenatti's reference to being "told the truth" referred to the adamant denials by both Trump and his White House team that he had been involved in the payment to Daniels. In April the president told reporters on Air Force One that he had no knowledge of the payment to Daniels, and one month earlier, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders had insisted that Trump had not been aware of Cohen's payment to Daniels — at least, that she was not "aware of" Trump having been informed about that.

"And this is an outrage, what has gone on here," Avenatti told O'Donnell." The American people have been lied to about this agreement, about the $130,000, about the reimbursement. And this is consistent with what we have been saying now for months, that ultimately was going to be proven and ultimately was going to come out."

Daniels' lawyer concluded by acknowledging that the one thing he hadn't anticipated was that "Rudy Giuliani was going to go on The Sean Hannity Show and admit it on national television. But make no mistake about it: Justice needs to be served as a result of this, and we are going to work morning, noon and night to ensure that that is exactly what happens."

Giuliani's disaster of an interview forced the president to confirm that he had previously lied about reimbursing his lawyer for the hush money payment to Stormy Daniels.

The liberal-leaning watchdog group Common Cause, which filed complaints with the Department of Justice and Federal Election Commission in January accusing the Trump campaign of violating campaign finance law disclosure requirements, seized upon Giuliani's comments as proof that the American people's trust had been broken.

"Giuliani seemingly thought he was doing President Trump a favor — but instead made Trump’s legal problems much, much worse," Paul S. Ryan, Common Cause Vice President for Policy and Litigation, said in a statement. After describing the actions taken by Common Cause to uncover the truth about the payment, Ryan concluded that "Giuliani’s admission that Trump reimbursed Cohen amounts to an admission that Trump actually knew about the payment. In other words, Trump’s own lawyer has now handed the DOJ evidence that President Trump committed criminal violations of federal law."

Not surprisingly, sources close to the White House suspect that Giuliani will be in hot water for what they perceived as a serious gaffe. According to The Washington Post:

The disclosure by Giuliani was viewed by some White House advisers as a misstep.

"Everyone in Trump world will see this as a total unforced error and further affirmation that hiring Rudy wasn’t the best idea," said one presidential adviser, who requested anonymity to speak candidly about the internal dynamics.

However, Giuliani told The Post that he and Trump discussed the fact that he planned to disclose that Trump reimbursed Cohen.

"Oh, yeah, yeah," he said. "Sure, sure. He was well aware that at some point when I saw the opportunity, I was going to get this over with."

Robert Costa, one of the reporters behind that story for the Post, also reported on Wednesday night that Giuliani had spoken with the president shortly after his Hannity interview. According to Costa, Giuliani told him that the president was "very pleased" with his performance on Fox News and that he does not expect to be fired.

Giuliani went on a similar damage control mission with The Wall Street Journal after his Fox News appearance.

In an exchange of text messages with the Journal after the Fox News broadcast, Mr. Giuliani said: "[Trump] paid him back. No campaign finance violations, no crime of any kind. Michael had discretion to solve these." Mr. Giuliani said the president had repaid Mr. Cohen sometime after the campaign, but didn’t offer further specifics.

Asked whether the fact that Mr. Trump had repaid his lawyer conflicted with the president’s previous statements that he was unaware of the payment, Mr. Giuliani said it was "not [an] issue."

"Cohen was his lawyer and had discretion to settle, as I have had for clients ultimately paying for it," Mr. Giuliani said.

He said Mr. Trump was "probably not aware" of the payment at the time it was made. "Remember October 2016, hardly will recall any of that in detail. I don’t remember it clearly either," he said.

Mr. Giuliani didn’t directly respond to a question on whether the president had engaged in a sexual encounter with Ms. Clifford. "Lawyers settle to save reputation of their clients and it happens all the time with" nondisclosure agreements, he said.