A newly-released document confirms that Donald Trump repaid his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, more than $100,000 in 2017 — an apparent connection to the $130,000 that Cohen paid in October 2016 for the silence of Stormy Daniels about her claimed 2006 sexual encounter with Trump.
The repayment is listed as a footnote in a 92-page form filed with the Office of Government Ethics.
Trump’s lawyers said their client was disclosing the payment voluntarily “in the interest of transparency”. But the ethics agency said it has notified the Justice Department, which enforces a law against willfully omitting information from disclosure forms: “You may find the disclosure relevant to any inquiry you may be pursuing regarding the president’s prior report that was signed on June 14, 2017.”
The lawyers wrote:
In 2016 expenses were incurred by one of Donald J. Trump’s attorneys, Michael Cohen. Mr. Cohen sought reimbursement of those expenses and Mr. Trump fully reimbursed Mr. Cohen in 2017. The category of value would be $100,001 — $250,000 and the interest rate would be zero.
Rudy Giuliani — the newly-appointed Trump attorney who stirred up the matter when he tried to sweep away the story but effectively said that Trump knew of the hush money, contradicting the President — said on Wednesday that the repayment was not disclosed previously because it was not considered a liability.
In April, after The Wall Street Journal reported the payment to Daniels, Trump denied all knowledge of the payoff.
Michael Avenatti, representing Daniels, questioned, “Was [Trump] lying then or was he lying now? He previously denied any knowledge of the agreement or the payment — and did so aboard Air Force One on video.”
The belated disclosure also poses other questions. Trying to repair the damage after his initial statement last month, Giuliani said Trump paid Cohen a monthly “retainer” which amounted to a total of about $450,000 or $460,000 for the year. He implicitly said that the money could be used to silence other allegations, including from women claiming affairs or sexual harassment.
Trump then said that the retainer was being paid, with those around him saying it was $35,000 per month:
…very common among celebrities and people of wealth. In this case it is in full force and effect and will be used in Arbitration for damages against Ms. Clifford (Daniels). The agreement was used to stop the false and extortionist accusations made by her about an affair,……
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 3 May 2018
Giuliani, Trump’s other attorneys, and Trump did not explain any discrepancy between the “$100,000 to $250,000” on the disclosure and a retainer which would have amounted to far more than this in 2017.
Whistle-Blower: Cohen Financial Records Missing
A US law enforcement official, who revealed financial documents showing how Donald Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen was paid millions by firms for “advice” in 2017, says he acted because other records are missing.
The official said he was alarmed when he was unable to find two other important reports in a government database. He then released the “suspicious-activity report” that was still in the files.
The SAR detailed payments to First Republic Bank, where Cohen’s shell company, Essential Consultants LLC — set up to deliver $130,000 in “hush money” to Stormy Daniels in October 2016 — maintained an account. Clients included the company of sanctioned Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, AT&T, and the pharmaceutical giant Novartis.
The document, covering September 2017-January 2018, referred to two previous SARs which are missing from the Treasury Department’s database.
The September-January document detailed about $1 million in payments. The missing SAR for the first part of 2017 appears to have covered another $2 million, and the June-September 2017 verson set out suspect transfers of more than $2 million.
AT&T have confirmed an annual contract with Cohen for $600,000, and Novartis for $1.2 million. Vekselberg’s company reportedly paid $500,000.