Donald Trump considers ‘benching’ Rudy Giuliani from TV interviews as White House struggles with facts in porn star saga
Rudy Giuliani gave a series of televised interviews last week, in which he made unexpected admissions about Donald Trump’s knowledge and his previous comments on the Stormy Daniels scandal
US President Donald Trump is growing increasingly irritated with lawyer Rudy Giuliani’s frequently off-message media blitz, which has included muddying the waters on hush money paid to porn actress Stormy Daniels and making claims that could complicate the president’s standing in the special counsel’s Russia probe.
Trump has begun questioning whether Giuliani, an old friend and former New York City mayor, should be sidelined from television interviews, according to two people familiar with the president’s thinking but not authorised to speak publicly about private discussions.
Trump also expressed annoyance that Giuliani’s theatrics have breathed new life into the Daniels story.
It’s a concern shared by Trump allies who think Giuliani is only generating more legal and political trouble for the White House.
Giuliani, the newest addition to the president’s legal team, first rattled the White House last week when he sat for interviews on Fox News and seemed to contradict Trump by saying the president was aware of the US$130,000 payout to Daniels from his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.
He also suggested the October 2016 settlement had been made because Trump was in the stretch run of his presidential campaign.
After Trump chided Giuliani on Friday, saying the lawyer needed to “get his facts straight”, Giuliani put out a statement trying to clarify his remarks.
But in weekend interviews, Giuliani appeared to dig himself a deeper hole by acknowledging that “Cohen takes care of situations like this, then gets paid for them sometimes.”
He did not rule out the possibility that Cohen had paid off other women.
Trump, who has denied the affair with Daniels, was angry that Giuliani had given the impression that other women may have made similar charges of infidelity, according to the people familiar with his views.
Additionally, Trump has grown agitated in recent days by replays of Giuliani’s interview with Sean Hannity, in which he said that Trump knew about the payment but that it wasn’t a campaign violation.
As for Giuliani, the president has not yet signalled to him to stop appearing on television but told a confidant recently that perhaps Giuliani should “be benched” – at least temporarily – if he can’t improve his performance.
Many in the White House have begun evoking comparisons between Giuliani and Anthony Scaramucci, another hard-charging New Yorker with a knack for getting TV airtime.
Scaramucci lasted 11 days before being fired.
Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who was among those surprised by Giuliani’s string of TV appearances, said Monday that Trump felt the former mayor “added value” to his outside legal team.
On Friday, Trump made clear Giuliani was still “learning the subject matter”.
Some West Wing aides have complained that Giuliani, who ran for president in 2008, was acting like a “principal” and not a member of a team.
Giuliani’s remarks have also been watched with concern at the State Department and Pentagon after he weighed in recently on international affairs.
He declared last week that North Korea would be releasing three Americans being held captive, which has not yet happened, and said the administration was committed to regime change in Iran, a stance Trump has not taken.
“He speaks for himself and not on behalf of the administration on foreign policy,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.