Trump con­firms he paid Co­hen up to $250K

Money wasn’t dis­closed in ethics fil­ing last year

USA TODAY US Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Gre­gory Korte and John Fritze

WASH­ING­TON – Pres­i­dent Trump for­mally dis­closed Wed­nes­day that he paid his at­tor­ney up to $250,000 as re­im­burse­ments for ex­penses — which in­cluded a $130,000 pay­off to adult film star Stormy Daniels, who says she had a sex­ual en­counter with him.

The dis­clo­sure came in his an­nual fi­nan­cial dis­clo­sure re­port to the Of­fice of Gov­ern­ment Ethics. Con­sis­tent with sim­i­lar dis­clo­sures, Trump re­ported that the pay­ments were in a broad range of $100,000 to $250,000.

Trump said he was list­ing the re­im­burse­ments to Michael Co­hen — first made pub­lic by lawyer Rudy Gi­u­liani two weeks ago — “in the in­ter­est of transparency,” even though he said he was not required to dis­close them.

But ethics of­fi­cials said in a note on his form that they have con­cluded other­wise. “The in­for­ma­tion re­lated to the pay­ment made by Mr. Co­hen is required to be re­ported,” they said.

And David Apol, di­rec­tor of the Of­fice of Gov­ern­ment Ethics, re­ferred the mat­ter to the Jus­tice Depart­ment. In a

let­ter to Deputy At­tor­ney Gen­eral Rod Rosen­stein, Apol said the dis­clo­sure may be rel­e­vant to an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the fi­nan­cial dis­clo­sure re­port Trump filed last year, which did not dis­close the no-in­ter­est loan.

A lib­eral-lean­ing watch­dog group, Ci­ti­zens for Responsibility and Ethics in Wash­ing­ton, filed a com­plaint in March seek­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the pay­ment and whether Trump broke the law by fail­ing to dis­close it last year.

“It is good that in the face of over­whelm­ing ev­i­dence and pub­lic pres­sure, the pres­i­dent came clean about this li­a­bil­ity on this year’s form,” the group’s Noah Book­binder said. “But we now have to won­der how many other li­a­bil­i­ties for sim­i­lar pay­ments he has that he still has not dis­closed.”

Trump had de­nied know­ing where Co­hen re­ceived the money to make the pay­ment. “You’ll have to ask Michael Co­hen. Michael is my at­tor­ney. You’ll have to ask Michael,” he told re­porters on Air Force One last month.

The pay­ments have raised a num­ber ques­tions of ethics and cam­paign fi­nance law: whether Co­hen im­prop­erly com­bined his per­sonal money with those of a client and whether the pay­ment con­sti­tuted a loan or con­tri­bu­tion to Trump’s cam­paign.

Trump’s 2018 re­port — filed Tues­day and made pub­lic Wed­nes­day — also pro­vides in­sight into the pres­i­dent’s still-vast real es­tate em­pire. The re­port also dis­closed the in­come Trump col­lected from sev­eral of his mar­quee prop­er­ties, in­clud­ing what he has de­scribed as the “Win­ter White House” in Palm Beach, Fla.

Mar-a-Lago, where the pres­i­dent fre­quently es­caped for win­ter week­ends, col­lected more than $25 mil­lion last year, down from $37 mil­lion from last year’s re­port. That pre­vi­ous fil­ing, Trump’s first as pres­i­dent, cov­ered a

16-month pe­riod, mak­ing the two num­bers roughly com­pa­ra­ble.

Trump’s in­come from the Trump In­ter­na­tional Ho­tel in Wash­ing­ton, which has come un­der scru­tiny for be­ing a top choice for for­eign dig­ni­taries, nearly dou­bled, from about $20 mil­lion in the 2016 re­port to just over

$40 mil­lion last year. That in­crease is in part prob­a­bly be­cause the ho­tel did not open un­til the fall of 2016.

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