Porn star’s pay­ment by Trump lawyer is ques­tioned

Watch­dogs seek clar­ity on ‘pri­vate trans­ac­tion’

USA TODAY International Edition - - NEWS - Fre­dreka Schouten

WASH­ING­TON – The as­ser­tion by Pres­i­dent Trump’s per­sonal lawyer that he used his own money “to fa­cil­i­tate” a six-fig­ure pay­ment to an ex-porn star who claimed an af­fair with Trump does not re­solve who made the pay­off, gov­ern­ment watch­dogs said Wed­nes­day as they re­newed their call for fed­eral reg­u­la­tors to in­ves­ti­gate.

In a care­fully worded state­ment is­sued late Tues­day night, Michael Co­hen said he used “my own per­sonal funds to fa­cil­i­tate a pay­ment of $130,000” to Stephanie Clif­ford in the weeks be­fore the elec­tion. Clif­ford, who uses the stage name Stormy Daniels, claimed she started an af­fair with Trump in 2006.

Co­hen said that nei­ther the “Trump Or­ga­ni­za­tion nor the Trump cam­paign” re­im­bursed him for the pay­ment — but the state­ment is no­tably silent on the po­ten­tial in­volve­ment of Trump or any other in­di­vid­u­als.

“We know that the money passed through Michael Co­hen, but his state­ment doesn’t change the fact that we need a Depart­ment of Jus­tice or FEC (Fed­eral Elec­tion Com­mis­sion) in­ves­ti­ga­tion to get to the bot­tom of this,” said Paul Ryan, a top of­fi­cial with Com­mon Cause, which filed com­plaints con­tend­ing the pay­ment was an il­le­gal, in-kind con­tri­bu­tion to the Trump cam­paign.

Ryan called Co­hen’s state­ment “an­other in­stance of Team Trump ... hid­ing from the public in­for­ma­tion that the public has a right to know.”

Co­hen did not re­spond to an email and tele­phone call Wed­nes­day from USA TO­DAY seek­ing more in­for­ma­tion. White House of­fi­cials did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to an in­quiry about Co­hen’s as­ser­tions. In his state­ment, first pro­vided to The New York Times, Co­hen called the pay­ment to Clif­ford a “pri­vate trans­ac­tion” and said it did not amount to “a cam­paign con­tri­bu­tion or a cam­paign ex­pen­di­ture by any­one.”

The state­ment was the first time Co­hen ac­knowl­edged any role in the pay­ment to the adult film ac­tress.

The Wall Street Jour­nal in Jan­u­ary re­ported that Co­hen cre­ated a limited li­a­bil­ity com­pany in Delaware, sev­eral weeks be­fore the 2016 elec­tion. A bank ac­count tied to that com­pany sent the pay­ment to a client-trust ac­count con­trolled by Clif­ford’s at­tor­ney, the news­pa­per found.

In his state­ment, Co­hen said his lawyer would make sim­i­lar com­ments to the FEC in re­sponse to the Com­mon Cause com­plaint.

Cam­paign-fi­nance ex­perts say par­ti­san pol­i­tics in Wash­ing­ton makes it un­likely that any fed­eral agency will take up the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Congress is con­trolled by Repub­li­cans, and the FEC typ­i­cally dead­locks along party lines when it con­sid­ers po­ten­tial cam­paign-fi­nance vi­o­la­tions.

“We have a sit­u­a­tion where the pres­i­dent’s per­sonal lawyer pays hush money to a porn star, and the pres­i­dent’s party doesn’t aban­don this guy,” said Mered­ith McGe­hee, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the non­profit group Is­sue One and an ex­pert on gov­ern­ment ethics.


Stephanie Clif­ford goes by the stage name Stormy Daniels.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.