In a federal financial disclosure released Wednesday, President Trump acknowledged his $130,000 debt to his attorney, Michael Cohen, for a hush money payment Cohen made to adult film star Stormy Daniels.
In last year’s form, Trump did not acknowledge the debt, which watchdog groups and ethics advocates say is a violation of federal law.
This year, Trump acknowledged the debt in a footnote. He attempts to have it both ways, stating “In the interest of transparency, while not required to be disclosed as ‘reportable liabilities’ on Part 8, in 2016 expenses were incurred by one of Donald J. Trump’s attorneys, Michael Cohen. 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.“
Trump is attempting to make a distinction between an “expense” and a “debt” — a talking point promoted by Rudy Giuliani on TV — that is not recognized under the law. Indeed, in the cover page to the filing, the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) says that Trump was required to list his debt to Cohen.
That means the debt was improperly omitted from last year’s filing. (As recently as March 29, 2018, Cohen’s lawyer claimed he was never reimbursed.)
Further the OGE made a referral of the matter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. In the letter, the head of the OGE, David Apol, reiterates that his office has concluded the debt to Cohen was “required to be reported.” He notes that the failure to list the Cohen debt in Trump’s June 2017 filing may violate federal law.
Another issue is Rudy Giuliani’s public claim that Trump actually reimbursed Cohen up to $460,000 over the course of 2017. The filing only accounts for up to $250,000 in debt to Cohen.