As his fixer pleads guilty and the White House says President Donald Trump has not been implicated in any crime, the President can’t seem to keep his story straight about alleged hush payments.
Trump’s story has continued to change as the President’s own words contradict claims he and his aides have made in relation to payments intended to silence adult film star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal over alleged affairs. The White House has denied both alleged affairs.
The President said in a recent Fox News interview that he knew about the hush money payments “later on.”
That assertion is refuted, however, by an audio recording obtained by CNN that indicates that Trump had contemporaneous knowledge of a proposal to buy the rights to McDougal’s story.
It is also at odds with an earlier denial from the President when he told reporters in April he did not know about a $130,000 payment to Daniels.
Here’s a look at how the President’s story about the hush money payments keeps changing:
Just days before the 2016 presidential election, The Wall Street Journal reported that American Media Inc., the company that owns The National Enquirer, paid $150,000 to McDougal, but did not run her story in a tabloid maneuver known as “catch and kill.”
Hope Hicks, a former spokeswoman for the Trump campaign who later served as White House communications director but has since left that position, told the newspaper at the time, “We have no knowledge of any of this,” and denied the alleged affair took place.
But CNN has since published a recording that was made in September 2016 in which then candidate Trump can be heard discussing with his then-attorney Michael Cohen how they would buy the rights to McDougal’s story.
On Tuesday, Cohen pleaded guilty to eight criminal counts and implicated Trump himself in a hush money scheme outlined by prosecutors. Cohen admitted that “in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office,” he kept information that would have harmed Trump from becoming public during the 2016 election cycle.
Following Cohen’s plea deal, Trump told Fox News in an interview segment that was taped on Wednesday that he found out about the payments “later on.” When Fox News’ Ainsley Earhardt asked the President if he knew about the payments, Trump replied, “Later on I knew, later on.”
CNN’s Kaitlan Collins asked White House press secretary Sarah Sanders on Wednesday to explain the discrepancy between what can be heard on the audio recording and Trump’s assertion that he found out about the payments later on. Sanders responded by saying, “The President did nothing wrong. There are no charges against him.”
Trump has also shifted his story in relation to Daniels, who claims she had a consensual sexual encounter with Trump in 2006. The White House has said Trump denies that happened and the President himself has denied the affair on Twitter.
Cohen acknowledged in February that he made a $130,000 payment to Daniels, but said that he used his “own personal funds” to do so.
In March, Sanders said during a White House press briefing that “there was no knowledge of any payments from the President,” when a reporter asked whether the President knew about the payment to Daniels.
In April, Trump denied knowing about the transaction, saying “no,” in response to a reporter’s question about whether he was aware of the $130,000 payment. Trump was also asked in a follow-up question if he knew where Cohen got the money to make the payment. “No, I don’t know,” the President said.
The following month, however, Rudy Giuliani, who is currently serving as an attorney to the President, contradicted those statements when he told Fox News’ Sean Hannity that the President had reimbursed Cohen for the payment.
Shortly after Giuliani’s admission, Trump acknowledged that he did know about the effort to silence Daniels and indicated that he also knew how Cohen was paid for the transaction.
In a series of tweets, Trump claimed that Cohen had entered into a non-disclosure agreement and was paid through a monthly retainer that he received and which was not tied to the campaign.
And in the interview with Fox and Friends taped Wednesday, Trump said that he knew about the payments “later on.”