President Donald Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One last month that he didn’t know about a $130,000 payment made by his lawyer, Michael Cohen, to porn star Stormy Daniels weeks before the 2016 election. That statement was contradicted last week by another Trump attorney, Rudy Giuliani, who said the president had reimbursed Cohen for the expense.
Speaking on CNN on Sunday, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway claimed there’s an explanation for that discrepancy: Trump wasn’t telling reporters he didn’t know about the payment. He was saying he didn’t know about it when it was made.
Kellyanne Conway in her White House role
Kellyanne Conway in her White House role
White House Senior Advisor Kellyanne Conway speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, U.S., February 23, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway whispers to Senior Advisor Jared Kushner before U.S. President Donald Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in delivered joint statements from the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, U.S. June 30, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway (L) laughs with other aides before U.S. President Donald Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in delivered joint statements from the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, U.S. June 30, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway arrives for a meeting with the President's Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis in Washington, U.S., June 16, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Vice President Mike Pence and White House senior advisor Kellyanne Conway leave after attending a Republican party policy lunch meeting at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S. July 11, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
White House Senior Advisor Kellyanne Conway holds up a memorandum from the Justice Department's Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein critical of Comey's position as director of the FBI at the White House in Washington, U.S., May 10, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
(L-R) Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Press Secretary Sean Spicer and Senior Advisor Stephen Miller walk on the South Lawn of the White House upon their return with President Donald Trump to Washington, U.S., May 17, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway arrives at Newark International airport in Newark, NJ U.S., with President Donald Trump, June 9, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway and Keith Schiller, deputy assistant to the president and director of Oval Office operations, follow U.S. President Donald Trump to Marine One as he departs for a day trip to Kenosha, Wisconsin, from the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, U.S., April 18, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway takes part in a strategic and policy CEO discussion with U.S. President Donald Trump in the Eisenhower Execution Office Building in Washington, U.S., April 11, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
White House Senior Advisor Kellyanne Conway waves as she arrives to speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, U.S., February 23, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Senior advisors Stephen Miller and Kellyanne Conway watch as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President Donald Trump hold a joint news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., March 17, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway leaves after attending House Republican conference meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., March 23, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, attended the joint press conference of President Donald Trump and President Klaus Iohannis of Romania, in the Rose Garden of the White House, on Friday, June 9, 2017. (Photo by Cheriss May/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 05: White House Senior Advisor, Kellyanne Conway (L), stand with White House Communications Director, Hope Hicks, during a news conference with U.S. President Donald Trump and King Abdullah II of Jordan, at the White House April 5, 2017 in Washington, DC. President Trump held talks on Middle East peace process and other bilateral issues with King Abdullah II. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway, listens as US President Donald Trump speaks at American Center for Mobility in Ypsilanti, Michigan on March 15, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Nicholas Kamm (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
Kellyanne Conway, senior counselor to US President Donald Trump, walks to a House Republican conference meeting at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on March 23, 2017.
US President Donald Trump held last-minute negotiations with fellow Republicans to avoid a humiliating defeat Thursday in his biggest legislative test to date, as lawmakers vote on an Obamacare replacement plan which conservatives threaten to sink. / AFP PHOTO / NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - MARCH 21: Kellyanne Conway, aide to President Donald Trump, arrives in the Capitol for Trump's meeting with the House Republican Conference on Tuesday, March 21, 2017. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 10: Counselor to the President Donald Trump, Kellyanne Conway attends the swearing in ceremony of Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) to be the new Health and Human Services Secretary., on February 10, 2017 in Washington, DC. Conway has been under fire for her comments about Ivanka Trump's clothing line during a TV interview. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
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“In speaking with the president just yesterday, when the president said “No” on Air Force One, he was talking about he didn’t know when the payment occurred,” Conway told Jake Tapper. “It was a very fast-moving exchange… He’s saying he didn’t know about when the payment occurred. He found out about it after the fact.”
In the Air Force One exchange, Trump was asked, “Did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?” He responded, “No. No. What else?”
He was then asked, “Do you know where he [Cohen] got the money to make that payment?”
Trump responded, “No. I don’t know.”
As Tapper noted in his interview with Conway, the president was speaking in the present tense, claiming ignorance.
“That’s present tense,” Tapper said. “But he did know.”
Conway responded by referring Tapper to the president’s Twitter feed.
“You have to look at president’s three tweets,” Conway said. “I’m going to relay to you what the president has told me, which is the best I can do. He didn’t know it at the time the payment occurred.”
Daniels has said she had an affair with Trump in 2006 after meeting him at a celebrity golf tournament. She signed a nondisclosure agreement and accepted the $130,000 just before Trump won the White House.
What Trump knew about the payment to Daniels is significant because it could comprise an illegal campaign contribution, if Cohen made it in order to protect Trump’s candidacy from a damaging news about an affair. Trump has denied the affair with Daniels happened, and Giuliani claims the payment was made to protect Trump’s family from an embarrassing story.