Trump admits fees
Ethics office questions 2017 disclosure omission
PRESIDENT Donald Trump has revealed he reimbursed his lawyer as much as $331,000 for unspecified “expenses”, with no mention of a $172,000 payment to porn star Stormy Daniels to keep quiet about a sexual tryst she said they had.
The payment, outlined in the President’s sworn annual financial disclosure, prompted questions from the nation’s ethics office as to why it hadn’t been included in last year’s statement. “I am providing both reports to you because you may find the disclosure relevant to any inquiry you may be pursuing,” David Apol, acting director of the Office of Government Ethics, wrote to Deputy Attorney-General Rod Rosenstein.
Mr Apol wrote that he considered Mr Trump’s payment to lawyer Michael Cohen to be a repayment of a loan and it was required to be included in the President’s June 2017 disclosure.
But Mr Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, told Fox News he didn’t think the repayment “had to be disclosed at all because I think it was an expenditure that he reimbursed”.
He also said the President was “fully aware” of his decision — and Mr Giuliani’s disclosure of the payment in an earlier Fox News interview — and that he “endorsed the strategy”.
“We wouldn’t do it without him,” Mr Giuliani said. “He’s the client, after all, and has tremendous judgment about things like this. And I think that the OGE, the Office of Government Ethics, basically agreed with us that it had been fully disclosed.”
Ethics experts say if the payment was knowingly and wilfully left out, Mr Trump could be in violation of federal ethics laws.
In small type on page 45 of his 92-page disclosure, Mr Trump said he reimbursed Mr Cohen for “expenses” ranging from $132,000-$331,000. The report said the President did not have to disclose the payment but was doing so “in the interest of transparency”.
While the disclosure didn’t specify the purpose of the payment, Mr Cohen has said he paid $172,000 to Ms Daniels in the weeks before the 2016 presidential election to keep her from going public about her allegations she had sex with the married Mr Trump in 2006.
Ms Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti, tweeted: “Mr Trump’s disclosure today conclusively proves that the American people were deceived. This was NOT an accident and it was not isolated. Cover-ups should always matter.”