Dis­clo­sure of Trump’s pay­ment to at­tor­ney Co­hen for ‘ex­penses’ raises le­gal is­sue

Orlando Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - By Bernard Con­don and Tami Ab­dol­lah

NEW YORK — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump re­vealed in his fi­nan­cial dis­clo­sure Wed­nes­day that he re­im­bursed per­sonal at­tor­ney Michael Co­hen as much as $250,000 for un­spec­i­fied “ex­penses,” with no men­tion of a $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 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. Ethics ex­perts says 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 (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.

Ques­tions about Co­hen’s ac­tions grew Wed­nes­day af­ter The Washington Post re­ported that he so­licited a pay­ment of at least $1 mil­lion from the gov­ern­ment of Qatar in late 2016, in ex­change for ac­cess to and ad­vice about the then-in­com­ing ad­min­is­tra­tion, ac­cord­ing to sev­eral peo­ple with knowl­edge of the episode.

The of­fer, which Qatar de­clined, came on the mar­gins of a Dec. 12, 2016, meet­ing at Trump Tower be­tween the Per­sian Gulf state’s for­eign min­is­ter and Michael Flynn, who be­came Trump’s first na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser. Steve Ban­non, who be­came chief White House strate­gist, also at­tended, the peo­ple said.

Co­hen did not par­tic­i­pate in the of­fi­cial meet­ings but spoke sep­a­rately to a mem­ber of the Qatari del­e­ga­tion, Ahmed al-Ru­maihi, who at the time was head of the in­vest­ments division of the coun­try’s sov­er­eign wealth fund, the Qatar In­vest­ment Au­thor­ity.

Co­hen and his lawyer did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment. Qatar’s Em­bassy in Washington de­clined to com­ment on the rev­e­la­tions.

How Trump dealt with the Daniels hush money in his dis­clo­sure has been closely watched, par­tic­u­larly af­ter his at­tor­ney Rudy 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 $100,001 to $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 $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 Trump Or­ga­ni­za­tion re­ferred ques­tions about the dis­clo­sure re­port to the pres­i­dent’s lawyer Sheri Dil­lon of Mor­gan, Lewis & Bock­ius. Dil­lon didn’t im­me­di­ately re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

The Co­hen foot­note ap­pears in a re­port giv­ing the first ex­tended look at Trump’s in­come from his prop­er­ties since he be­came pres­i­dent. In all, Trump took in at least $453 mil­lion from hotels, re­sorts, books and other busi­ness ven­tures.

His Washington, D.C., ho­tel near the Oval Of­fice, a mag­net for diplo­mats and lob­by­ists, took in $40 mil­lion. His Do­ral golf course and re­sort in Mi­ami took in $75 mil­lion. His Mar-aLago re­sort in Palm Beach, Florida, re­ceived $25 mil­lion, and his golf club in Bed­min­ster, N.J., gen­er­ated $15 mil­lion.

Some of the 12-month fig­ures for his prop­er­ties are down from his pre­vi­ous re­port, but that ear­lier re­port cov­ered about 16 months and so it is not di­rectly com­pa­ra­ble.

The fig­ures are be­fore ex­penses and so give no in­di­ca­tion of how much profit the pres­i­dent made off the prop­er­ties.

Trump has at least $315 mil­lion in debt, about the same as he re­ported a year ago.

SU­SAN WATTS/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump paid at­tor­ney Michael Co­hen, above, as much as $250,000, but did not re­port it on his June 2017 fi­nan­cial dis­clo­sure.

POOL/GETTY IMAGES

The head of the na­tion’s ethics of­fice ques­tioned why Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump didn’t in­clude a pay­ment to per­sonal at­tor­ney Michael Co­hen on his June 2017 re­port.

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