FILE - Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani arrives at the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster clubhouse in Bedminster, N.J.,  Nov. 20, 2016, President Donald Trump's new lawyer Rudy Giuliani said Wednesday the president repaid attorney Michael Cohen
FILE - Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani arrives at the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster clubhouse in Bedminster, N.J., Nov. 20, 2016, President Donald Trump's new lawyer Rudy Giuliani said Wednesday the president repaid attorney Michael Cohen

WHITE HOUSE - Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani says U.S. President Donald Trump reimbursed his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, for a $130,000 payment made to an adult film star in order to silence her about an alleged 2006 affair she had with Trump.

Giuliani, who recently joined Trump's legal team, told Fox News late Wednesday that Trump "didn't know about the specifics of it, as far as I know, but he did know about the general arrangement."

Trump has denied having had an affair with Stormy Daniels, and last month when reporters asked if he knew about the payment, he said, "No."

Daniels has sued both Trump and Cohen in relation to the transaction.  Her lawyer, Michael Avenatti, said after Giuliani's comments that Americans "should be outraged."

"We predicted months ago that it would be proven that the American people had been lied to as to the $130,000 payment and what Mr. Trump knew, when he knew it and what he did in connection with it," Avenatti wrote on Twitter.

Trump responded Thursday with a series of tweets defending the transaction, saying the non-disclosure agreement involved is "very common among celebrities and people of wealth."

"Prior to its violation by Ms. Clifford and her attorney, this was a private agreement.  Money from the campaign, or campaign contributions, played no roll [sic] in this transaction," Trump said.

Avenatti argued in a lawsuit the non-disclosure agreement was never valid because Trump did not sign it.

FILE - This combination photo shows, from left, Pr
FILE - This combination photo shows, from left, President Donald Trump, attorney Michael Cohen and adult film actress Stormy Daniels.

Legal team shuffle

Earlier Wednesday, the White House announced another change coming to the White House legal team.

Emmet Flood, who worked to unsuccessfully protect former U.S. president Bill Clinton from impeachment and was also the lead lawyer in the White House Counsel’s Office during President George W. Bush’s second term, is to succeed Ty Cobb.

"Emmet Flood will be joining the White House staff to represent the president and the administration against the Russia witch hunt.  Ty Cobb, a friend of the president, who has done a terrific job, will be retiring at the end of the month," White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.

The change of lawyers comes as the White House confronts a possible legal showdown with special counsel Robert Mueller, who might press for an interview with the president.

A White House consensus appears to have emerged in recent weeks that a more aggressive legal approach was needed to confront the Mueller inquiry.

Cobb was the key attorney interacting with the special counsel, who leads a team investigating whether Trump obstructed justice and sought to thwart the criminal probe into Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Word of Cobb’s impending departure came just after Trump tweeted about a "rigged system" in Washington, assailing the Justice Department for withholding key documents Republican lawmakers want to investigate his opponents.

"They don’t want to turn over Documents to Congress," Trump said on Twitter.  "What are they afraid of?  Why so much redacting?  Why such unequal 'justice?'  At some point I will have no choice but to use the powers granted to the Presidency and get involved!"

Former U.S. attorney, Don Stern,  now managing director of Corporate Monitoring and Consulting Services, tells VOA the president’s "repeated attacks on the credibility, professionalism and integrity of the Department of Justice undermines a very important institution in this country - that we adhere to the rule of law and that it should be applied fairly and equally."

Stern adds, "While we don't always reach that goal, it is disturbing to have the chief executive lead the charge against his own department and career attorneys.  It may create long term damage to the department."

Rule of law under siege?

Conservative Republican lawmakers have drafted articles of impeachment against deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, who is second-in-command at the Justice Department.  He has refused to hand over some documents the lawmakers have sought.

Rosenstein has been a frequent Trump target for a year, ever since he assumed oversight of the Mueller probe, after his boss, attorney general Jeff Sessions, removed himself from involvement with the Russia investigation because of his own contacts with Moscow's ambassador to Washington during the 2016 campaign.

U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein speaks
FILE - U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein speaks at a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, March 23, 2018.

Rosenstein on Tuesday rebuffed calls from Republican lawmakers for his impeachment.

"We’re going to do what’s required by the rule of law, and any kind of threats that anybody makes are not going to affect the way we do our job."

One conservative lawmaker, Congressman Mark Meadows of North Carolina, said Rosenstein's "response to the draft articles of impeachment is reminiscent of our interactions with him over the past few months: a lot of rhetoric with little facts."
   
In another tweet Wednesday, Trump quoted one of his supporters, former federal prosecutor Joseph diGenova, as saying that U.S. presidents have the unlimited power to fire any official in the government if they want to do so.