US President Donald Trump confirmed today that he reimbursed his personal lawyer the USD 130,000 he had given to adult film star Stormy Daniels days before the 2016 election to buy her silence over an alleged affair with the then presidential candidate. Trump’s confirmation came hours after his new legal aide and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani revealed that the president had personally repaid Michael Cohen the USD 130,000 that was used to buy Daniels’s silence through a non-disclosure agreement. In an early morning tweet, Trump, 71, said his personal attorney, Cohen, was paid via a monthly retainer and that the hush agreement into which Cohen entered with Daniels had “nothing to do with the campaign.”
The President had previously denied knowledge of the payment, which has prompted complaints to the Justice Department and Federal Election Commission over potential violations of campaign finance law. “Mr. Cohen, an attorney, received a monthly retainer, not from the campaign and having nothing to do with the campaign, from which he entered into, through reimbursement, a private contract between two parties, known as a non-disclosure agreement, or NDA,” Trump wrote on Twitter.
“These agreements are very common among celebrities and people of wealth,” Trump claimed. “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 despite already having signed a detailed letter admitting that there was no affair,” Trump said.
He added, “Prior to its violation by Ms. Clifford and her attorney, this was a private agreement. Money from the campaign, or campaign contributions, played no role in this transaction.” Speaking on Fox News yesterday, Giuliani said the reimbursement to Cohen was “not campaign money” and that the payment was “perfectly legal.”
Cohen had admitted to paying Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, out of his own pocket through a private LLC. Daniels has sued Trump and Cohen, saying the nondisclosure agreement is void because Trump did not sign it. The White House has said Trump denies the affair. Giuliani recently joined Trump’s legal team in an effort to bring special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s 2016 election meddling and any possible coordination with the Trump campaign to an end.
“He (Trump) paid him back. No campaign finance violations, no crime of any kind. Michael had discretion to solve these,” Giuliani told The Wall Street Journal in another interview. When the daily asked whether the fact that Trump had repaid his lawyer conflicted with the president’s previous statements that he was unaware of the payment, Giuliani said it was “not [an] issue”. “Cohen was his lawyer and had discretion to settle, as I have had for clients ultimately paying for it,” he said. Trump was “probably not aware” of the payment at the time it was made, he said.
Giuliani said that Trump repaid Cohen “over several months” by putting him on a “retainer of USD 35,000 when he was doing no work for the president.” Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti, told CNBC: “This is exactly what we predicted would ultimately be shown. Every American, regardless of their politics, should be outraged.”
Asked if Giuliani’s admission is evidence of a campaign finance violation, Avenatti simply said, “Yes.” The president has repeatedly denied that he had an affair Daniels, who has described having intimate contact with Trump before he became president. Giuliani’s comments are also in direct contrast to what Cohen has been saying for months — that he used his own money to pay the actress.
Cohen is under investigation by the FBI, which raided his home and office last month and seized documents that included information about the payment to Daniels. The hush-money payment to Daniels is reportedly a focus of a federal investigation into Cohen’s private finances and business interests. Investigators are likely to examine whether the payment was legal under election campaign finance laws and whether Cohen disclosed the true reason for borrowing the funds.