MAY 16, 2018
In new financial disclosure documents, President Trump reported reimbursing his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, for an expenditure over $100,000 last year — an apparent reference to the $130,000 that Cohen paid to ensure the silence of an adult-film actress who claimed she’d had an affair with Trump.
“In 2016 expenses were incurred by one of Donald J. Trump’s attorneys, Michael Cohen,” Trump reported in a footnote of his official Personal Financial Disclosure report, required of top federal officials. “Mr. Cohen sought reimbursement of those expenses and Mr. Trump fully reimbursed Mr. Cohen in 2017. The category of value would be $100,001 — $250,000 and the interest rate would be zero.”
That statement was included on the 45th page of a 92-page disclosure.
Earlier this year, Trump told reporters on Air Force One that he had not known about Cohen’s payment to Daniels.
“Do you know where he got the money to make that payment?” a reporter asked at the time.
“No,” Trump said. “I don’t know.”
More recently, former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani — newly hired as part of Trump’s legal team — said in interviews that Trump had reimbursed Cohen for the payment. Trump this month also acknowledged on Twitter that he paid Cohen through a monthly retainer to stop what Trump called “false and extortionist accusations.”
The payment by Cohen to actress Stormy Daniels was made in the last weeks before the 2016 presidential election, as part of a non-disclosure agreement meant to ensure Daniels would not speak about the alleged affair publicly.
After the payment to Daniels was first revealed by the Wall Street Journal, Cohen acknowledged making the payment himself. He said he had not been reimbursed by Trump’s company or Trump’s campaign.
“Neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms. Clifford, and neither reimbursed me for the payment, either directly or indirectly,” Cohen said, using Daniels’s real name, Stephanie Clifford. The payment to Daniels was made via a limited-liability company, Essential Consultants, which Cohen had set up in 2016.
Cohen declined at the time to answer The Washington Post’s questions about whether Trump had personally reimbursed him, or if knew about the payment.
The Office of Government Ethics, which oversees the financial-disclosure documents, said in its own footnote that it had concluded Trump had to report the payment to Cohen in a section that detailed Trump’s legal liabilities over the course of 2017 and the first half of 2018.
“OGE has concluded that the information related to the payment made by Mr. Cohen is required to be reported and that the information provided meets the disclosure requirement for a reportable liability,” the agency said.
In addition, the Office of Government Ethics released a letter dated on Tuesday to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein saying that it had concluded that Trump was required to disclose this liability owed to Cohen.
Federal prosecutors in New York are already investigating Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen for a series of possible crimes, including bank fraud and campaign finance violations, according to people familiar with the matter.
As part of that investigation, FBI agents are trying to determine whether any laws were violated as part of a pattern or strategy of silencing damaging accounts about Trump that could have been made public during the election campaign, these people said.
That letter was written in response to a complaint from a watchdog organization, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which said that Trump should have reported the payments to Cohen in last year’s disclosures.
Noah Bookbinder, the watchdog group’s executive director, said Tuesday that Trump’s filing “suggests we were right in our previous complaint and raises serious questions as to why [the reimbursement to Cohen] was not disclosed in last year’s filing.”
Michael Avenatti, an attorney representing Daniels, on Tuesday questioned why Trump was acknowledging the payment — and his reimbursement of Cohen — now. “Was he lying then or was he lying now? He previously denied any knowledge of the agreement or the payment — and did so aboard Air Force One on video.”
Before taking office, Trump said he shifted day-to-day control of his business to his sons, primarily Eric Trump. But the president retains ownership of those businesses, through a trust, and can take money out of them at any time.
Courtesy/Source: Washington Post