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White House Continues To Step On Its Own Message With Mixed Signals From Trump

May 4, 2018
Originally published on May 4, 2018 5:44 pm
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

And this should have been a banner day for President Trump. The Labor Department reported the lowest unemployment rate in more than 17 years. Trump's historic summit meeting with the leader of North Korea appears to be taking shape. And the president enjoyed a rock-star welcome at the annual meeting of the National Rifle Association. All of that was clouded, though, by continued questions surrounding a payoff made on Trump's behalf to porn star on the eve of the 2016 election. NPR's Scott Horsley joins us now from the White House to talk about all this. And, Scott, how long you got?

(LAUGHTER)

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Hi, Mary Louise.

KELLY: Start here. There is all this positive news today, as I just laid out. But the president is complaining he's not getting credit for it. So walk us through what's going on here.

HORSLEY: Yeah. When the president walked down on the South Lawn of the White House this morning, the first question he got was about his new lawyer Rudy Giuliani and the mixed signals that the president's legal team has sent this week about that hush money paid to porn star Stormy Daniels on the eve of the 2016 election. That story, along with a larger investigation by the special counsel, has been an ongoing source of frustration for the president. And you can hear that in this exchange with members of the news media.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: This country is right now running so smooth. And to be bringing up that kind of crap and to be bringing up witch hunts all the time - that's what you want to talk about - you're going to see - excuse me. Excuse me.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You said on Air Force One that you did not know anything about the payment.

TRUMP: You have to - excuse me. You take a look at what I said. You go back and take a look. You'll see what I said.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You said no when I asked you if you knew about the payment.

TRUMP: Excuse me. Excuse me. You go take a look at what we said.

KELLY: Scott, you can hear back and forth there those reporters shouting questions at President Trump. What are they - what's the argument there?

HORSLEY: Well, Rudy Giuliani dropped a bombshell this week when he said Trump had reimbursed his fixer Michael Cohen for the $130,000 Cohen paid to Stormy Daniels. And the reporter's asking Trump, if he reimbursed Cohen, why did he say last month that he had no knowledge of the hush money payment? Trump argued, go back. Look what I said. So we did go back, and that is exactly what Trump said. He was asked point blank in early April, Mr. President, did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels? And the president said no.

KELLY: Right. But then enter Rudy Giuliani, who in the evolving set of facts, let's call it, that is coming forth from the White House on this narrative - he appeared to contradict that. So where do we stand now?

HORSLEY: Right. Giuliani said Trump had reimbursed Cohen for this and other expenses in a series of monthly payments in 2017. And yesterday, Trump himself appeared to acknowledge that timeline with a series of tweets. But this morning, when Trump spoke to reporters, he seemed to be distancing himself from Giuliani's explanation. And he said his lawyer is still getting acquainted with the facts of this case.

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TRUMP: Rudy knows it's a witch hunt. He started yesterday. He'll get his facts straight.

HORSLEY: Now, Giuliani did issue a statement late today that says the timeline he's presented reflects his understanding, not necessarily what the president knew. And Giuliani also insists the payoff to Stormy Daniels was intended to protect the president's family, not his chances in the 2016 election.

KELLY: And real quick, I mentioned that President Trump was with the NRA in Dallas this afternoon. What happened there?

HORSLEY: Well. The NRA feels. Just as the president does. That it doesn't get a fair hearing from the news media. Especially after school shootings like the one in Parkland. Fla. And so the NRA gave Trump a very warm welcome. They were sort of united in their reservations. And it must have been something of a balm for the president, who's feeling very put upon even if most of his problems right now are the result of his actions and those - the people around him.

KELLY: Scott Horsley, thanks very much.

HORSLEY: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.