Thursday, May 17, 2018 1:00 am
Trump reimbursed Cohen $250,000
Failure to report amount last year raises questions
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 adult film 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 last 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 (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, D.C.
How Trump dealt with the Daniels hush money in his disclosure has been closely watched, particularly after his attorney Rudy Giuliani gave interviews 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.”
Daniels' lawyer, Michael Avenatti, tweeted, “Mr. Trump's disclosure today conclusively proves that the American people were deceived.
“This was NOT an accident and it was not isolated. Cover-ups should always matter.”