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In January, the public interest advocay group Common Cause filed complaints with the Federal Election Commission and the Justice Department, alleging that the reported payment to Stephanie Clifford (aka Stormy Daniels) constituted a campaign finance violation. Paul S. Ryan, the group's vice president for litigation and policy, said early Wednesday morning that the statement by Trump's lawyer to the New York Times does nothing to alleviate concerns that the payment appears to be "hush money" or the potential violations by the Trump campaign. (Photo: Screengrab/via NBC News)

Trump's Personal Lawyer Admits $130,000 Pre-Election Payment to Porn Actor Stormy Daniels

Michael Cohen, the president's personal attorney, claims payment was his personal money—as opposed to campaign cash—but refused to say what it was for

Jon Queally

Michael D. Cohen, the longtime personal lawyer to President Trump, admitted Tuesday night that he did, in fact, pay $130,000 just before the 2016 presidential election to an adult-film actor who once claimed she and Trump had a sexual affair while he was married to his current wife, Melania.

"Cohen has now admitted to being the 'John Doe' named in our complaints who paid off Daniels, apparently to buy her silence, at a time when she was reportedly negotiating with major media outlets to discuss the potentially damaging details of a relationship she carried on with Trump."
—Paul S. Ryan, Common Cause

It's the most detailed explanation yet of the mysterious payment to Stephanie Clifford, whose on-screen name is Stormy Daniels, after the Wall Street Journal reported on the transaction last month.

"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 asserted in a statement to The New York Times. "The payment to Ms. Clifford was lawful, and was not a campaign contribution or a campaign expenditure by anyone."

What wouldn't Cohen, who reportedly refused to answer followup questions, explain or discuss? Exactly what the payment was for.

In January, the public interest advocay group Common Cause filed complaints with the Federal Election Commission and the Justice Department, alleging that the reported payment to Clifford constituted a campaign finance violation. Paul S. Ryan, the group's vice president for litigation and policy, said early Wednesday morning that Cohen's statement to the Times does nothing to alleviate concerns that the payment appears to be "hush money" or the potential violations by the Trump campaign

As Trump's personal attorney, Cohen was an agent of then-candidate Trump. The timing and circumstances of the $130,000 payment to Daniels make it appear that the hush money was paid to Daniels in an effort to influence the election. Any payment by a person such as Cohen on behalf of or in consultation with a candidate to influence an election is an in-kind "contribution" to the candidate under campaign finance law subject to a $2,700 limit and disclosure requirements.

At the very least this latest admission by Cohen and the circumstances behind it requires a full investigation by the FEC and the Department of Justice as we requested last month. Cohen has now admitted to being the "John Doe" named in our complaints who paid off Daniels, apparently to buy her silence, at a time when she was reportedly negotiating with major media outlets to discuss the potentially damaging details of a relationship she carried on with Trump. Questions about the payment and the circumstances behind it must be answered, and they must be answered under oath.

While Clifford has said publicly the alleged affair in 2006 did not take place, she detailed a sexual encounter with Trump in a lengthy magazine interview she gave prior to signing what, according to the Journal's reporting, was a nondisclosure agreement.

As the Times reports, Cohen "declined to answer several follow-up questions, including whether Mr. Trump had been aware that Mr. Cohen made the payment, why he made the payment or whether he had made similar payments to other people over the years."

Campaign-finance experts who spoke to the Journal argued that even if Cohen "footed the bill" with his own money, election rules were still "likely violated." That was an argument echoed by other experts on social media:


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