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Donald Trump

Donald Trump’s lawyer says he paid porn star Stormy Daniels with his own home equity line of credit

Meanwhile, calls are mounting on the Justice Department to investigate whether the US$130,000 payment violates federal laws

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 10 March, 2018, 8:57pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 10 March, 2018, 10:37pm

President Trump’s long-time lawyer has said he used his home equity line of credit to arrange a US$130,000 payment to a porn star who claims she had an affair with Trump.

Michael Cohen’s comments came as calls mounted on the Justice Department to investigate whether the payment to adult actress Stormy Daniels, made before the 2016 presidential election, was in fact a secret loan to Trump and violates federal laws.

Speaking with ABC News, Cohen said the funds were “taken from my home equity line and transferred internally to my LLC account in the same bank”. 

He dismissed allegations that his use of a Trump Organisation email address to arrange the payment to Daniels signalled that Trump was aware of the transaction.

“I sent emails from the Trump org email address to my family, friends as well as Trump business emails,” he said. “I basically used it for everything.”

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Cohen has previously said neither the Trump campaign nor the Trump Organisation was party to the agreement to pay off Daniels or reimbursed him for the payment. He has been silent on whether Trump personally reimbursed him.

Neither Cohen nor his lawyer Lawrence Rosen immediately responded to requests for more information.

Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, has said she had an affair with Trump in 2006 and 2007, a claim the Trump team has denied. In a lawsuit filed against Trump earlier in the week, she said a “hush” agreement she signed with Cohen was invalid because Trump never signed it. While she has sought to tell her story publicly, Cohen last week won a temporary restraining order against the actress.

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Daniels alleged Trump “at all times has been fully aware of the negotiations … the existence and terms of the Hush Agreement, the payment of $130,000, [and] the use of [Essential Consultants LLC] as a conduit”.

Essential Consultants LLC was set up by Cohen in the weeks before the 2016 election. 

Her lawyer Michael Avenatti told CNN “it’s absolutely laughable” that Trump was not aware of attempts by Cohen to pay Daniels. Later, on Twitter, he questioned Cohen’s assertion about relying on a home equity line to come up with the money.

“So let me get this straight,” he wrote. “Cohen now claims he borrowed $130k on his house and pays interest on it in order to give that same $130k [on behalf of a Billionaire] to a woman who according to him was lying.”

Meanwhile, a non-profit ethics watchdog group has called on the Justice Department and the Office of Government Ethics to investigate whether the payment violated federal laws because Trump did not list it on his financial disclosure forms.

Remember, the feds got Al Capone for lying on his federal financial submissions [his taxes], not for any underlying offences
Norm Eisen

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) lodged the civil and criminal complaint, arguing that Cohen’s payment may have been a loan to Trump and, if so, needed to be disclosed. 

CREW argued that Trump’s 2016 financial disclosure form did not include any reference to Cohen or Essential Consultants LLC, and that if the allegations are true, it should have. Public officials are required under the 1978 Ethics in Government Act to report all liabilities beyond US$10,000 during the preceding calendar year.

CREW chairman Norm Eisen said if “Trump intentionally omitted this material information from his financial disclosures as part of a larger scheme to hide his relationship with Ms Daniels, that would be no small thing”.

“The president personally certified these filings, so he may finally face some accountability … Remember, the feds got Al Capone for lying on his federal financial submissions [his taxes], not for any underlying offences,” he said.

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White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders declined to answer reporters’ questions about Daniels.

Cohen’s explanation of the payment was the latest twist in the saga over the Daniels payment, which was made at a time when the Trump campaign was grappling with a wave of sexual misconduct accusations against the then-candidate.

Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee and members of the House’s Democratic Women’s Working Group have sent a lengthy letter to Trump’s lawyers about the Daniels case, an alleged extramarital affair with former 1998 Playboy Playmate of the Year Karen McDougal, and “potentially others”.

The letter requested details on agreements and payments made. It said the events raise questions relating to “possible campaign finance, tax, legal ethics and other legal violations, raise serious doubts about the credibility of President Trump’s repeated denials of sexual misconduct, and pose risks of future efforts to extort or otherwise improperly influence the president”.