A new report by the Wall Street Journal on Monday suggests that President Donald Trump knew about payments made to adult film star Stormy Daniels weeks before the election.
In a previous statement made in mid-February, Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen claimed he used his “personal funds” to “facilitate” the payment and was not reimbursed by the Trump campaign or the Trump Organization. Cohen refused to say if he was reimbursed by the Trump organization or Trump personally.
“In a private transaction in 2016, I used my own personal funds to facilitate a payment of $130,000 to Ms. Stephanie Clifford,” Cohen said in the statement. “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. The payment to Ms. Clifford was lawful, and was not a campaign contribution or a campaign expenditure by anyone.”
Written statement last night by Pres Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen about 2016 payment to porn actress "Stormy Daniels." pic.twitter.com/yvQwP0GezI
— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) February 14, 2018
The Wall Street Journal story, however, presents a very different narrative.
According to the Journal, Cohen missed two deadlines earlier in the month to pay Daniels because he needed to contact Trump and had openly complained to friends after Trump’s win that the president hadn’t reimbursed him for the $130,000, which was used as hush money in return for signing an agreement that barring Daniels from discussing an alleged sexual encounter with Trump in 2006.
Campaign finance experts were already suspicious of the payment when it was first reported in February.
Advocacy group Common Cause filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, asking for an investigation into whether the payment to Daniels violated election law. The payment would be illegal if its purpose was to benefit the campaign. Cohen’s statement that he would “always protect Mr. Trump” seemed to bolster that theory.
These new details only make it far more likely that Trump violated campaign finance laws.
More Stormy Daniels scoops from @joe_palazzolo & @mrothfeld that relate to @CommonCause's pending @FEC/@DOJ complaints.
1. Sure does look like decision to pay $130,000 was coordinated w/ Trump himself.
2. Cohen "complained" about not being reimbursed.
— Steve Spaulding (@SteveESpaulding) March 5, 2018
There's a liabilities section in the financial disclosure form for reporting personal liabilities over $10,000. Cohen previously said the Trump organization wasn't a party to the transaction. If Trump personally owed $130,000 to Cohen or the LLC, it was a reportable liability. https://t.co/yCORzRJAzZ
— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) March 5, 2018
According to the Journal, proving any violation of campaign finance laws would require evidence of coordination between Cohen and Trump.
Cohen has repeatedly denied allegations made by groups like Common Cause, calling them “factually unsupported and without legal merit” in his February statement. He called the new revelations reported by the Wall Street Journal “fake news.”