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Dis­clo­sure shows US pres­i­dent gave back $100,000 hush cash

Irish Independent - - News - Gin­ger Gib­son Wash­ing­ton

Trump re­paid $100,000 hush cash to Stormy lawyer

US PRES­I­DENT Don­ald Trump has ac­knowl­edged for the first time in an ethics dis­clo­sure that he re­paid more than $100,000

(€85,000) to for­mer per­sonal at­tor­ney Michael Cohen, re­new­ing ques­tions about Mr Trump’s ties to porn star Stormy Daniels.

The dis­clo­sure un­der­scored the in­con­sis­tency of ex­pla­na­tions by Mr Trump and aides about a $130,000 (€110,000) pay­ment made by Mr Cohen to Ms Daniels be­fore the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion to buy her si­lence over an al­leged sexual en­counter with Mr Trump in

2006.

Signed by Mr Trump and re­leased by the US Of­fice of Gov­ern­ment Ethics, the dis­clo­sure also drew com­ment from watch­dog groups and a se­nior Demo­cratic law­maker about pos­si­ble vi­o­la­tions of campaign fi­nance law, which re­quires pub­lic dis­clo­sure of ex­penses meant to in­flu­ence the elec­tion.

Com­mon Cause, a non-par­ti­san watch­dog group in Wash­ing­ton, has al­ready filed a com­plaint with the US Fed­eral Elec­tion Com­mis­sion, claim­ing Mr Trump broke the law when his campaign ex­cluded de­tails about the $130,000 pay­ment in legally man­dated re­turns.

Mr Trump’s ac­knowl­edg­ment that he re­im­bursed Mr Cohen puts the pres­i­dent “at the mid­dle of all of the campaign fi­nance vi­o­la­tions”, said Paul Ryan, head of lit­i­ga­tion at Com­mon Cause.

“He know­ingly and wil­fully caused his campaign to not dis­close this ex­pen­di­ture, and that’s a crim­i­nal vi­o­la­tion.”

The lat­est ethics dis­clo­sure did not de­scribe the pur­pose or the re­cip­i­ent of the orig­i­nal 2016 pay­ment to a “third party” made by Mr Cohen, for which he was re­im­bursed by Mr Trump.

Mr Cohen has ac­knowl­edged pay­ing Ms Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clif­ford.

Also, Rudy Gi­u­liani, re­cently named Mr Trump’s per­sonal at­tor­ney, has said Mr Trump re­im­bursed Mr Cohen for the orig­i­nal $130,000 pay­ment, which was made shortly be­fore Mr Trump’s vic­tory in the Novem­ber 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

Mr Trump had pre­vi­ously dis­puted whether he was aware of the pay­ment by Mr Cohen and whether he re­im­bursed him.

In April, Mr Trump told re­porters he did not know any­thing about the pay­ment. His dis­clo­sure now sug­gests Mr Trump re­paid Mr Cohen last year.

Mr Trump, his campaign and Mr Cohen have all de­nied any wrong­do­ing. The White House did not re­spond to re­quests for com­ment to clar­ify the rea­son for Mr Trump’s pay­ment to Mr Cohen.

Ethics dis­clo­sures are an an­nual re­quire­ment for se­nior fed­eral of­fi­cials and are over­seen by the ethics of­fice, a gov­ern­ment of­fice that pro­vides over­sight of an ex­ec­u­tive branch pro­gramme to pre­vent and re­solve con­flicts of in­ter­est.

David Apol, the act­ing di­rec­tor of the ethics of­fice, said in a let­ter to Deputy At­tor­ney Gen­eral Rod Rosen­stein that the orig­i­nal pay­ment made by Mr Cohen should have been dis­closed in ethics doc­u­ments that Mr Trump filed in June 2017. Mr Apol’s let­ter was re­leased with the Trump dis­clo­sures.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Eli­jah Cum­mings, lead­ing Demo­crat on the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Over­sight Com­mit­tee, said in a state­ment he was push­ing for the panel to in­ves­ti­gate the pay­ments.

“Pres­i­dent Trump was re­quired by law to re­port that he ‘fun­nelled’ money through Michael Cohen to reimburse a se­cret pay­ment to adult film star Stormy Daniels, but he con­cealed these pay­ments, and we still do not know why,” Mr Cum­mings said.

CREW, a lib­eral-lean­ing watch­dog group, filed a com­plaint with the ethics of­fice that was ref­er­enced in Mr Apol’s let­ter.

“The dis­clo­sure sub­stan­ti­ates our CREW com­plaint that the fail­ure to do so pre­vi­ously was a vi­o­la­tion of law,” CREW’s board chair­man Nor­man Eisen said. “That prior fail­ure should be re­viewed by the ap­pro­pri­ate au­thor­i­ties.”

The ethics dis­clo­sure said Mr Cohen sought re­im­burse­ment in 2017 for an ex­pense he in­curred in 2016.

“Mr Trump fully re­im­bursed Mr Cohen,” the dis­clo­sure re­port said.

Photo: Will Heath/ NBC via AP

Porn ac­tress Stormy Daniels dur­ing a re­cent ap­pear­ance on ‘Satur­day Night Live’ in New York.

Don­ald Trump faces ques­tions fol­low­ing his ethics dis­clo­sure

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