‘We’re not changing any stories’: Trump’s week of contradiction


The presidents week ended on a high in front of cheering gun owners but only after Rudy Giuliani had torn up his bosss Stormy Daniels defence

The end of Donald Trump’s week was shaping up nicely, on paper. On Friday afternoon, he was to speak to a group of America’s most ardent gun enthusiasts, a crowd sure to shower him with the kind of mass adulation he finds so gratifying that, 16 months into his presidency, he has never stopped holding campaign rallies stocked with true believers.

But Trump’s speaking engagement, at the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting, was in Dallas, and he had to get there first.

That meant passing two phalanxes of reporters – one at his helicopter, one at the foot of the steps leading to Air Force One. They were bursting with questions about the whiplash turns of the past week in two of the biggest stories of his presidency, the Robert Mueller investigation and the Stormy Daniels affair.

Early in the week, a paraphrased list of 49 questions had been leaked to the press that Mueller, the special counsel investigating alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow, reportedly wanted to ask the president.

The questions focused on whether Trump had obstructed justice by firing the former FBI director James Comey and other acts, and what Trump knew about his campaign’s contacts with Russians.

The unwritten question was whether Trump would ever agree to such an interview – and, if he did not, whether Mueller would to try to force him through subpoena.

Then Trump’s most freshly recruited lawyer, the former New York City mayor and unashamed Trump cheerleader Rudy Giuliani, went on TV and delivered a bombshell. He said that money used to seal a 2016 hush agreement with the porn actor Stormy Daniels had come from Trump, who had earlier flatly denied, on camera, any knowledge of the $130,000.

Confronted on the tarmac at Andrews air force base about the Daniels payment, Trump grew aggressive.

“This country right now is running so smooth, and to be bringing up that kind of crap, and to be bringing up witch-hunts all the time, that’s all you want to talk about,” Trump said.

But wasn’t he the one who had an alleged extramarital affair with a porn actor, then secretly moved money to pay her not to talk about it right before the election, then said he had no knowledge of the payment, then this week tweeted that non-disclosure agreements “are very common among celebrities and people of wealth”?

“We’re not changing any stories,” Trump said.

Rudy Giuliani was defended, sort of, by Donald Trump: ‘He started yesterday. He’ll get his facts straight. He’s a great guy.’ Photograph: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

With the tangled vines encircling Trump’s White House growing ever thicker, the president’s path to emerge from the scandals around him becomes increasingly obscure with each passing day. At the same time, the tools at Trump’s disposal to free himself might not be as effective as they once were.

Not so long ago, the hiring of Giuliani, a former US attorney and street fighter who goes so far back with Trump that he once dressed in drag and pretended to be molested by him, might have enhanced Trump’s power to take his case to the American public.

Instead, on day one, Giuliani, 73, appeared to be having trouble getting up to speed on the foregoing months of lawsuits and contradictory statements that the president’s camp has issued about the Stormy Daniels affair.

The former mayor immediately stepped in it, letting slip that Trump had paid his personal lawyer Michael Cohen $35,000 a month in part to meet the payment made to Daniels.

That gave the lie to a Trump statement aboard Air Force One on 5 April, when reporters asked him whether he knew where Cohen got the money to pay Daniels.

“No, I don’t know,” Trump said.

On Friday, Trump blamed Giuliani’s newness in his role as he tried to clear up confusion about the payment – “It’s actually very simple,” Trump said, without explaining how.

“Rudy is a great guy, but he just started a day ago,” adding: “He started yesterday. He’ll get his facts straight. He’s a great guy.”

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Trump on Giuliani: ‘He’ll get his facts straight’ on Stormy Daniels – video

“It’s a question of misinterpretation,” Giuliani chimed in in a separate interview, which concluded with a denial that he had lost his place in the president’s affections: “He says he loves me.”

Those who would speak for Trump must be willing to ride the narrative tiger, and sometimes to be bitten. Even Sarah Sanders, the counter-attacking White House press secretary, adopted a defensive crouch when she was pressed on Thursday to explain contradictions in the changing White House account of the Stormy Daniels case.

“Again, I gave you the best information that I had,” Sanders said, over and over again.

While the struggling among Trump’s surrogates to stay on the same page has a slapstick quality, the seriousness of the allegations that Mueller is weighing against Trump lends an air of tragedy to the White House comedy of errors.

And downright ominous are the partisan attacks on the rule of law that the president continually deploys in an effort to free himself from his problems.

“You have all these investigators; they’re Democrats,” Trump said of the special counsel’s team, some of whom have made campaign donations in the past to Democrats. “In all fairness, Bob Mueller worked for Obama for eight years.”

Donald Trump among friends at the NRA meeting in Dallas. Photograph: Sue Ogrocki/AP

That is not true; Mueller, a lifelong Republican and decorated Vietnam veteran with a reputation as a straight-shooter, spent 12 years as FBI director, overlapping for 4.5 years with Barack Obama and 7.5 years with George W Bush, who appointed him.

Comfortable, clearly, in his contradictions, Trump said on Friday that he really wanted to sit for an interview with Mueller to help sort everything out, but his lawyers were counselling against it.

“I would love to speak,” Trump said. “I would love to. Nobody wants to speak more than me – in fact, against my lawyers’ – because most lawyers, they never speak on anything.

“I would love to speak, because we’ve done nothing wrong. There was no collusion with the Russians. There was nothing. There was no obstruction.”

In the convention hall at the NRA meeting in Dallas, Trump got the roaring reaction he had come looking for, as he delivered red-meat lines about freedom and protecting gun rights. But then he lapsed into reflections on his favorite topic: himself.

The president bragged about how Kanye West supports him, and claimed his popularity had “doubled” among African Americans as a result.

“Kanye West must have some power,” Trump said, and the sea of gun owners cheered.

Read more: www.theguardian.com


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