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Sarah Sanders: Trump didn't know about Stormy Daniels payment "at the time" but learned "later"

Sarah Sanders on Stormy Daniels payment

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said President Trump "didn't know at the time" his lawyer Michael Cohen paid adult film star Stormy Daniels $130,000, but "eventually learned." Sanders' comments came Thursday in the first press briefing since Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani admitted Wednesday night that Mr. Trump "reimbursed" Cohen for paying Stormy Daniels, even though Mr. Trump told reporters last month he was unaware of the payment

Mr. Trump soon confirmed the repayment on Twitter Thursday morning, emphasizing that, because the money didn't come from campaign funds, there could be no campaign finance violation. Asked why the president gave a seemingly misleading statement when he said on Air Force One he was unaware of the payment, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said, "This was information that the president didn't know at the time, but eventually learned."

Still, Sanders did not clarify when exactly Mr. Trump became aware of the payment. Sanders claimed the first time she became aware the Mr. Trump reimbursed Cohen was during Giuliani's interview Wednesday night. 

Giuliani claimed Mr. Trump repaid Cohen in installments, but Sanders referred a question about how many such installments there were back to Mr. Trump's personal legal team. Asked if Mr. Trump is happy with Giuliani, who only recently joined his personal legal team, Sanders said she had not spoken with the president about the topic.

On Thursday morning, Sanders declined to comment on the news, citing ongoing litigation — Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, is suing Mr. Trump and Cohen, claiming the non-disclosure agreement she signed in 2016 is invalid because Mr. Trump didn't sign it. Clifford alleges she had a sexual encounter with Mr. Trump in 2006.

Sanders also addressed Giuliani's claim that Mr. Trump fired Comey because the then-FBI director "would not—among other things—say that he wasn't a target" of the Russia investigation.

"Hillary Clinton got that and he couldn't get that. He fired him and he said I'm free of this guy," Giuliani told Hannity.

In May 2017 after firing Comey, Mr. Trump told NBC News' Lester Holt he thought of the "made-up" Russia matter when he fired Comey.

Sanders said Mr. Trump had a number of reasons to fire Comey, but at the same time, can fire anyone and "doesn't have to justify" his decision.

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