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Rudy Giuliani bolstered a legal complaint against President Donald Trump this week after he told Sean Hannity that the president had in fact known about and repaid a payment his lawyer had sent to an adult film star. (Photo: Gage Skidmore/Flickr/cc)

Adjusting Its Criminal Complaint, Watchdog Groups Says Guiliani's Statements Only Further Incriminate Trump

"It's not often that the president's lawyer goes on television and appears to confirm one of our complaints."

Julia Conley

Thanks to statements made by the newest member of President Donald Trump's legal team, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, this week—including a new clarification issued Friday a government watchdog says the evidence is now stronger that Trump violated campaign finance and ethics laws.

"It's not often that the president's lawyer goes on television and appears to confirm one of our complaints," Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) said in a statement on Thursday.

Following the former mayor's comments, CREW supplemented their complaint to the Justice Department regarding possible criminal and ethics violations related to the Trump campaign's alleged payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels and his failure to disclose the payment on campaign finance forms.

"There is now more than enough evidence for the DOJ to investigate whether President Trump intentionally omitted the Stormy Daniels liability from his personal financial disclosures," Eisen said. "This is a very serious matter, including because there can be criminal penalties for false statements."

Giuliani told Fox News host Sean Hannity in an interview this week that Trump had repaid the $130,000 that his lawyer, Michael Cohen, had "funneled...through a law firm" to Daniels just before the 2016 election.

The statement appeared to contradict Trump's earlier claims that he knew nothing about the payment, which was allegedly made to keep Daniels quiet about a sexual affair she says she and the president had.

On Friday, Trump told reporters that Giuliani would "get his facts straight" regarding the payment, shortly before the attorney released a statement saying it was made "to resolve a personal and false allegation in order to protect the President's family." He also claimed that his statements on Hannity's show were describing his own "understanding of these matters."

Giuliani's attempt at damage control, CREW chairman Norm Eisen said, did nothing to change the group's view that Trump's possible liability for campaign finance violations should be investigated.

"By revealing the repayment scheme, Giuliani implicated Trump in Cohen's apparent misconduct. Even the best-case scenario—that the president in effect made a six-figure contribution to his own campaign—is an apparent violation of law because it was undisclosed," wrote Bookbinder and Eisen in the Washington Post Friday. 

"The president has an obligation to be transparent and truthful about his financial interests, and failing to do so can be not just an ethics violation, but also a serious criminal offense," said Bookbinder. "The DOJ and OGE [Office of Government Ethics] must launch a thorough investigation and take any and all appropriate action."

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