May 03, 2018
Trump acknowledges Cohen paid $130,000 to Daniels and confirms he repaid Cohen via retainer that had ‘nothing to do with the campaign’
Trump shifts story over Michael Cohen payment to Stormy Daniels
Donald Trump reimbursed his attorney for a $130,000 payment to pornographic actress Stormy Daniels to keep her from going public about an alleged affair with Trump, according to Rudy Giuliani, a recent addition to Trump’s legal team.
Trump on Thursday said the payment to Daniels, made just before the 2016 election, was aimed at stopping Daniels from making “false and extortionist accusations”, despite claiming last month that he had no knowledge of Cohen’s payment to Daniels.
“Money from the campaign, or campaign contributions, played no roll [sic] in this transaction,” the US president wrote in a series of early morning tweets. He said Cohen was paid as part of a “monthly retainer”.
In a bombshell interview with Sean Hannity of Fox News on Wednesday night, Giuliani revealed Trump had personally repaid Cohen the $130,000 given to Daniels just before the 2016 election.
Some watchdog groups and campaign finance experts have said that the payment to Daniels, who claims she had sex with Trump in 2006 at a golf tournament in Nevada, could count as an illegal contribution to the Trump campaign.
Even if Trump made the payment personally, he could still be vulnerable to a criminal campaign finance violation for “knowingly and willfully” causing his campaign to file an incomplete or false report to the Federal Election Commission (FEC).
In April, in his first public comments on the allegations, Trump was asked by reporters on Air Force One if he knew about the payment. He replied: “No.” When was asked why Cohen made the payment, Trump said: “You’ll have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney. You’ll have to ask Michael.”
Shortly after speaking to Fox News on Wednesday, Giuliani told the New York Times he had documentation showing Trump had made the payment personally. He also said Trump and his lawyers were aware Giuliani would be sharing this information on Fox News.
Giuliani said it was not clear that Trump knew about the payment to Clifford. “I don’t think he did” know “until now”, Giuliani said.
On the Hannity show, Giuliani insisted that the payment was entirely legal and broke no campaign finance laws. “So they funnelled it through the law firm?” Hannity asked, referring to Cohen’s legal practice.
“Funnelled it through the law firm,” Giuliani concurred, “and the president repaid it.”
Hannity appeared to be surprised by the revelation. “Oh, I didn’t know that he did,” he said.
“Yup,” replied Giuliani.
Michael Avenatti, who represents Daniels, told CNBC late on Wednesday: “This is exactly what we predicted would ultimately be shown. Every American, regardless of their politics, should be outraged.”
By disclosing Trump’s own financial involvement in the hush money, Giuliani and the president might be making the calculation that pain today is merited to minimize even greater grief further down the line. White House aides have been seriously concerned about the fallout of the FBI raid in April on the premises of Cohen’s law firm.
The raid was carried out after a referral from the special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. It led to the seizure of records including communications between Cohen and Trump.
It is not clear what legal jeopardy Cohen is in because the April raid of his home and office could have been conducted to obtain evidence in Mueller’s Russia investigation or in a parallel investigation of potential campaign finance violations or other alleged criminal activity.
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