Michael Cohen Does Not Say He Wasn't Compensated in Any Way, and Why Make the Admission Now?
The New York Times Tuesday night published a bombshell: Donald Trump's longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen admitted he paid adult film actress Stormy Daniels $130,000 of his own money just weeks before the 2016 election.
Everything about the story stinks.
“Neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms. Clifford, and neither reimbursed me for the payment, either directly or indirectly,” Cohen told The Times in a carefully-crafted statement. Stormy Daniels is the stage name of Stephanie Clifford. “The payment to Ms. Clifford was lawful, and was not a campaign contribution or a campaign expenditure by anyone.”
His statement does not say if Donald Trump reimbursed him, or compensated him in any manner. Did he get a raise? A bonus? A house? His statement does not say if a Trump family member reimbursed him, or compensated him in any manner.
His statement does not say, and he refused to answer, if Donald Trump knew about the payment, or if he has made similar transactions before.
Perhaps most importantly, his statement does not say why he paid Stormy Daniels $130,000.
Trump denies having an affair with Daniels in 2006, months after his youngest son was born to his wife Melania.
Recently, Stormy Daniels appeared to deny the affair, recently brought to light again by The Wall Street Journal. Shortly after, The Washington Post detailed all the times she did not deny the affair – all the times before the $130,000 payment.
What also stinks is the timing of the revelation: During one of the biggest scandals to plague the Trump administration to date, this news, perhaps designed to distract, comes out.
But what's very important and separated from some of the salacious headlines is that this is a matter for the Federal Election Commission.
The former director of the Office of Government Ethics, Walter Shaub, offered this sarcastic response to the news (which he appears to have later deleted):
Trump's lawyer says he paid $130k out of his own pocket to silence Stormy Daniels right before the election - and refuses to answer follow-up questions - but it super definitely wasn't an excess, in-kind campaign contribution. Well if he says so, okeedokee https://t.co/LfaohsVx1v— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) February 14, 2018
Common Cause, which filed a Federal Election Commission complaint, supposedly triggered the statement from Trump's attorney Michael Cohen.
Here's what one Common Cause attorney, a former special counsel at the FEC, said:
If made for the purpose of influencing the election—it’s an excessive in-kind contribution and should have been reported. https://t.co/0iBHHj0TbM— Steve Spaulding (@SteveESpaulding) February 14, 2018
Common Cause says Cohen's admission of making the payment "does not make the Trump campaign's legal problems go away."
Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O'Donnell weighed in when the news broke Tuesday night, insisting the Federal Elections Commission investigate:
BREAKING: Trump's personal lawyer says he paid porn star Stormy Daniels $130K out of his own pocket, the New York Times reports.@Lawrence and @Maddow react to the latest chapter in this bizarre scandal, including why the FEC must investigate. #LastWord pic.twitter.com/z79invYDmi— The Last Word (@TheLastWord) February 14, 2018