Prob­lem with Trump ap­proach

Doc­u­ments show Pres­i­dent paid lawyer, no men­tion of porn star

The New Zealand Herald - - World - Bernard Condon and Tami Ab­dol­lah in New York

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump re­vealed in his fi­nan­cial dis­clo­sure that he re­im­bursed per­sonal lawyer Michael Cohen as much as US$250,000 ($362,070) for un­spec­i­fied “ex­penses”, with no men­tion of a US$130,000 pay­ment to porn ac­tress Stormy Daniels to keep quiet about a sex­ual tryst she said they had.

The head of the na­tion’s ethics of­fice yes­ter­day ques­tioned why Trump didn’t in­clude this in his pre­vi­ous year’s sworn dis­clo­sure and passed along his con­cerns to fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors.

“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.

Apol wrote that he con­sid­ers Trump’s pay­ment to Cohen to be a re­pay­ment on a loan and that it was re­quired to be in­cluded in Trump’s June 2017 dis­clo­sure.

But Trump lawyer Rudy Gi­u­liani told Fox News Chan­nel’s Laura In­gra­ham that 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 to re­veal the fact that Trump had re­im­bursed Cohen in a pre­vi­ous Fox News ap­pear­ance and “en­dorsed the strat­egy”. “We wouldn’t do it with­out him,” Gi­u­liani said on The

In­gra­ham An­gle. “He’s the client, af­ter all, and has tremen­dous judg­ment about things like this. And I think it — that the OGE, the Of­fice of Gov­ern­ment Ethics, ba­si­cally agreed with us that it had been fully dis­closed.”

He added: “The fact is that the Pres­i­dent dis­closed ev­ery­thing that he could dis­close. He can’t dis­close more than he knows. And we’re very com­fort­able with it.”

But ethics ex­perts say that if that pay­ment was know­ingly and will­fully left out, Trump could be in vi­o­la­tion of fed­eral ethics laws.

“This is a big deal and un­prece­dented. No pres­i­dent has been pre­vi­ously sub­ject to any re­fer­ral by [the Of­fice of Gov­ern­ment Ethics] to DOJ as a re­sult of hav­ing failed to re­port an item on their pub­lic fi­nan­cial dis­clo­sure re­port,” said Virginia Can­ter, a for­mer ethics of­fi­cial in the Clin­ton and Obama White Houses who is now with the watch­dog group Cit­i­zens for Re­spon­si­bil­ity and Ethics in Wash­ing­ton.

How Trump dealt with the Daniels hush money in his dis­clo­sure has been closely watched, par­tic­u­larly af­ter Gi­u­liani gave in­ter­views ear­lier this month say­ing the Pres­i­dent had re­im­bursed Cohen in a series of pay­ments af­ter the cam­paign was over.

Trump and Gi­u­liani have clashed over what the Pres­i­dent knew and when he knew it.

In a foot­note in tiny type on Page 45 of his 92-page dis­clo­sure, Trump said he re­im­bursed Cohen for “ex­penses” rang­ing from US$100,001 to US$250,000.

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, Cohen has said he paid US$130,000 to Daniels in the weeks be­fore the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion to keep her from go­ing pub­lic about her al­le­ga­tions that she had sex with the mar­ried Trump in 2006.

Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Ave­natti, tweeted, “Mr. Trump’s dis­clo­sure to­day con­clu­sively proves that the Amer­i­can peo­ple were de­ceived.” The tweet con­tin­ued: “This was NOT an ac­ci­dent and it was not iso­lated. Cover-ups should al­ways mat­ter.”

The Cohen foot­note ap­pears in a re­port giv­ing the first ex­tended look at Trump’s rev­enue from his prop­er­ties since he be­came Pres­i­dent.

Michael Cohen

Rudy Gi­u­liani

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