Old theory: Rudy’s a little shaky on the facts of his case and should probably hold off on interviews until he knows them better.

New theory: Rudy’s a Democratic plant.

Kidding aside, I’ll stick up for him here (a little). What else is he supposed to say when asked if other women were paid off? Steve Bannon told Michael Wolff that many women were “taken care of” during the campaign. Given Trump’s past, it’d be more shocking if Daniels were the only former mistress who had sought payment than if two dozen had. And if you’re Rudy, there’s no one you can trust to tell you the honest truth about other payoffs. Trump would deny it no matter what, even to his own lawyers, believing that he can lie his way out of anything. And Cohen probably wouldn’t talk to Giuliani since his and Trump’s interests are increasingly adversarial. The only safe play for Rudy is to say that he knows nothing about other payments while allowing for the possibility that they exist — in case they do! — and to play them off as no big deal. That’s why he calls the Daniels payment “nuisance” money in the second clip. He’s straining to explain why Trump and Cohen might hand $130,000 to a woman whom they knew was lying about an affair with him. Mere pocket change for a billionaire, he shrugs. If you’re going to give pocket change to one liar, why wouldn’t you give it to, say, 20 liars?

On Friday I said that Rudy’s interview strategy was to pound the table because he believes the facts aren’t on his side. This is another example of it. Admitting that more women might have been paid off is embarrassing but it’s of a piece with admitting to Hannity last week that Trump reimbursed Cohen for the Daniels payment. Amid all his table-pounding about Mueller and witch hunts, etc etc, Rudy’s beginning to dribble out inconvenient facts/possibilities so that he can start spinning them now, before the feds or the media reveal them.

Liberal reaction to what he said is unfortunately accurate, though. The “retainer” Trump paid Cohen sounds a lot like a slush fund.

What’s the difference between Trump fronting $35,000 a month to Cohen for “expenses” and Cohen invoicing Trump for $35,000 in expenses at the end of the month, as the average lawyer might? In a word, accountability. Normally a client would want to know exactly what he’s being charged for, especially when we’re talking about sums in five or six figures. Fronting the money is what you’d do when you *don’t* want to know what you’re being charged for, i.e. you expect that a certain amount will be needed regularly by your lawyer to clean up embarrassing (or illegal?) messes on your behalf and you want to be able to claim that you had no idea about what he was up to if that mess is discovered. That’s what makes Cohen a “fixer” more so than a lawyer and makes the monthly “retainer” look more like a slush fund than a fee or a bill for expenses. The only reason to arrange payment the way Rudy describes is so that the client can maintain plausible deniability of his lawyer’s actions.

But Stein is right: This could work — for Trump. If he didn’t know what Cohen was using the monthly “retainer” for, that could be used to explain to the FEC why POTUS never reported the reimbursement. How could he report it when he didn’t realize what he was reimbursing Cohen for? That wouldn’t work to save Cohen, though. He’d still be guilty of making an illegal unreported loan to Trump’s campaign and he might face disciplinary trouble for not keeping his client fully informed of an agreement he signed that involved him. The “slush fund” theory, in other words, places all of the responsibility on Cohen for what happened with Daniels, and don’t think Cohen doesn’t know it. Rudy works for Trump, not Cohen, so he’s only protecting his client by doing that, but there’s peril in alienating Cohen while he mulls whether to cooperate with the feds. Giuliani probably assumes that that’s inevitable, though. Trump might not, reasoning that the whole point of having a slush fund was to have Cohen take the fall if their business together was exposed. Could it possibly be that Michael Cohen agreed to do that in the past and, now that his freedom’s on the line, is having second thoughts about it?

Good question:

Trump may have intentionally blinded himself to what Cohen was doing with his money but there had to have been some communication between the two when a woman contacted Cohen asking for a payoff. Even a rich man wouldn’t hand out $100,000 like candy to just anyone who came forward, particularly someone with Trump’s reputation for womanizing. That’d be an open invitation for con artists by the thousands to approach Cohen with their hands out. Even if the discussions between Cohen and Trump were vague and perfunctory, there’d have to be some discussion to distinguish the frauds from women who might have hard evidence of adultery: “Stormy Daniels says you had an affair. Is this something I should be interested in?” But it’s also true, given Cohen’s contacts with the tabloids and his unusual arrangement with Daniels’s and Karen McDougal’s original lawyer, Keith Davidson, that in some cases he may have been able to sniff out a real accuser from a fake one without any input from Trump. In Touch magazine knew the details of Daniels’s story in 2011; the Enquirer knew the details of McDougal’s in 2016. Staff (or Davidson) might have dialed up Cohen with those details to say “this one sounds legit” and then Cohen sprang into action, possibly without POTUS aware. But did that happen with every woman? Seems unlikely.

In lieu of an exit question, here’s the guy who followed Rudy on Stephanopoulos’s show this morning. Hoo boy.