herald

Thursday 24 May 2018

Trump refunded €108K hush money his lawyer gave porn star stormy

Donald Trump repaid his lawyer for the hush money given to Stormy Daniels
Donald Trump repaid his lawyer for the hush money given to Stormy Daniels

Donald Trump has said his personal lawyer was paid back through a retainer, not campaign funds, for the $130,000 (€108,500) given to porn star Stormy Daniels to stop "false and extortionist accusations" she made about a sexual encounter with him.

Mr Trump, who last month told reporters he did not know about the payment made by lawyer Michael Cohen the month before the 2016 election, said on Twitter that the funds were part of a "private agreement" that involved money that had "nothing to do with the campaign".

Silence

In his fullest account to date regarding the payment to Ms Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, Mr Trump acknowledged the non-disclosure agreement with her to secure her silence about what she has called a one-night sexual encounter with Trump in 2006.

"The agreement was used to stop the false and extortionist accusations made by her ... despite already having signed a detailed letter admitting that there was no affair," Mr Trump wrote, adding that Ms Daniels and her lawyer had violated it.

"Money from the campaign, or campaign contributions, played no role in this transaction."

The claim of repayment is significant because a payment by Mr Cohen could be seen as an illegal campaign contribution.

Mr Trump as candidate would have been permitted to make unlimited personal contributions to his own campaign.

Mr Cohen is facing a federal criminal investigation in New York in part over the payment to Ms Daniels, with the FBI seizing material from his office and home.

The investigation is an offshoot of the probe by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into potential collusion between Mr Trump's campaign and Russia and whether the president has unlawfully sought to obstruct the probe.

Mr Trump said yesterday that Mr Cohen "received a monthly retainer" from which he entered into the "non-disclosure agreement".

His tweets came the morning after former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who joined Mr Trump's legal team last month, said the president had repaid Mr Cohen the hush money

Even if Mr Trump repaid the lawyer, the payment to Ms Daniels could still be found to be an undisclosed campaign loan in violation of federal election laws, said law professor Kathleen Clark of Washington University in St Louis.

Omitting the loan from disclosure forms is also arguably a violation of statutes against making false statements to the government, she said.

Mr Giuliani pushed back on that idea yesterday on Fox News, saying it was a personal rather than campaign matter to protect the president's family and that Mr Trump did not know the details of the arrangement until about 10 days ago.

However, Mr Giuliani also appeared to make the opposing argument.

"Imagine if that came out on October 15, 2016, in the middle of the last debate with Hillary Clinton. Cohen made it go away. He did his job," said Mr Giuliani.

Defamation

Ms Daniels has filed two lawsuits against Mr Trump, one to get out of a non-disclosure agreement she signed in October 2016 in exchange for the $130,000 (€108,500), and another for defamation.

The lawsuit over the non-disclosure agreement was put on hold last week by a judge in Los Angeles, who said the potential overlap between the case and the criminal investigation in New York could violate Mr Cohen's constitutional right against self-incrimination.

Asked about the president's tweets, Ms Daniels' lawyer Michael Avenatti told MSNBC that Mr Trump opened himself up to another possible defamation suit.

"Our case just got exponentially better," he said. "This is not about sex, this is about a cover up."

Promoted articles

Entertainment News