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Financial Disclosure Showing Trump Payment to Cohen Is 'Tantamount to a Criminal Referral,' Former White House Ethics Chief Says

"OGE has effectively reported the president to DOJ for potentially committing a crime."

Former White House ethics chief Walter Shaub to investigate President Donald Trump's 2016 payment to his lawyer, Michael Cohen. (Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Following Wednesdays's revelations regarding President Donald Trump's payment to his lawyer, Michael Cohen, in 2016, former White House ethics chief Walter Shaub called on the Department of Justice to investigate whether Trump had deliberately hid the payment previously, saying the news out of the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) was essentially a report of criminal activity by the president.

"If DOJ investigates and determines that President Trump knew of his debt to Cohen when he filed last year's report, there will be reason to suspect that his omission of the debt from last year’s report was 'knowing and willful,' which would be a crime," Shaub said in a statement.

The OGE, which Shaub led under President Barack Obama and for the first several months of Trump's presidency, released Trump's financial disclosure forms on Wednesday, showing the president had paid Cohen more than $100,000 in 2016 for expenses he incurred.

The office sent the disclosure to the DOJ on Wednesday, saying officials "may find the disclosure relevant to any inquiry you may be pursuing" regarding Trump's earlier, incomplete financial disclosure from last year.

Cohen has admitted that he personally paid $130,000 to adult film actress Stormy Daniels in October 2016, just before Trump was elected president, to keep her from speaking about a sexual encounter she says she had with Trump in 2006.

While Trump has stated publicly he knew nothing about the payment to Daniels, Shaub maintained that the financial disclosure indicates that Trump did know about his debt to Cohen when he filed disclosure last year.

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