Trump, Giuliani strategizing leaves White House in the dark
Rudy Giuliani’s cable rollout as a member of President Donald Trump’s legal team, and the torrent of statements he made Wednesday night, caught many in the White House offguard and flat-footed, highlighting the continued chaotic nature of the President’s communications strategy.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters during Thursday’s briefing she only learned that Trump had reimbursed Cohen when Giuliani said it on television.
“The first awareness I had was during the interview last night,” Sanders.
Giuliani told CNN Thursday he and Trump are in sync.
“You won’t see daylight between me and the President,” Giuliani said in an interview. “The strategy is to get everything wrapped up and done with this so that it doesn’t take on a life of its own.”
The former New York City mayor said he spoke to Trump before and after his explosive announcement on Fox News Wednesday night when he said the President had reimbursed his attorney Michael Cohen for the $130,000 payment to the porn actress Stormy Daniels.
Giuliani had dinner with former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski before his Fox interview, a source told CNN. Lewandowski also flew with Trump on Air Force One to Michigan Saturday night.
But Giuliani conceded that White House officials were caught off guard by his comments.
“They were, there was no way they wouldn’t be,” he told CNN Thursday. “The President is my client, I don’t talk to them.”
Case in point: White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley had pre-taped an interview with Fox News Wednesday that was set to air in the 11 p.m. ET hour. But after Giuliani announced Trump had in fact paid back Cohen for the hush money payment, Gidley had to return to the studio for a live interview.
Gidley told Fox host Shannon Bream that he had “no idea of the topics of the show” and referred questions to the President’s outside counsel.
“I’m not an attorney,” Gidley told Bream. “I just work at the White House.”
Several White House officials were also taken aback by Giuliani’s dramatic interview Wednesday night. One White House aide said Giuliani’s interview “stunned and shocked” communications staff, most of whom, like Sanders, weren’t expecting it.
One White House official remarked that Giuliani undermined the administration’s entire defense strategy when it came to not just Daniels, but also former FBI Director James Comey and the special counsel, all in the span of a single interview.
A senior White House official told CNN that Giuliani’s performance came off as “clumsy” to them.
Two White House officials told CNN managing the situation is now out of their control, with several others pointing to how Giuliani and Trump have their own conversations before Giuliani goes on cable news, further proving that the President is his own communications director.
A source familiar with the conversation confirmed that Trump was not at all upset about Giuliani’s performance.
In an apparent sign of his support, Trump reiterated Giuliani’s comments Thursday morning in a stunning string of tweets where he said he had paid a monthly retainer to Cohen, which he said meant the payment could not be considered a campaign contribution or finance violation. He also denied having an affair with Daniels.