Trump Didn’t Pay Porn Star Hush Money — Because He Stiffed His Own Lawyer: Report

By
Michael Cohen, the real-life Barry Zuckerkorn.

It appears President Trump may have dodged the consequences of one shady habit, conducting extramarital affairs, by indulging in another unscrupulous habit: refusing to pay his employees.

Last month Michael Cohen, President Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, released a statement that seemed to suggest he paid Stephanie Clifford — a.k.a. Stormy Daniels, the porn star who claimed she had an affair with Trump – $130,000 of his own money right before the 2016 election. Supposedly, it had nothing to do with his boss.

“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 said.

A Wall Street Journal report released on Monday suggests it’s possible Cohen wasn’t reimbursed for the payment — but not for lack of trying:

Mr. Cohen said he missed two deadlines earlier that month to make the $130,000 payment to Ms. Clifford because he couldn’t reach Mr. Trump in the hectic final days of the presidential campaign, the person said.


Ms. Clifford was owed the money in return for signing an agreement that bars her from discussing an alleged sexual encounter with Mr. Trump in 2006, people familiar with the matter said.


After Mr. Trump’s victory, Mr. Cohen complained to friends that he had yet to be reimbursed for the payment to Ms. Clifford, the people said.

In his carefully worded statement, Cohen said he used his own money to “facilitate” the payment to Clifford, and records show he set up an LLC in Delaware on October 17, 2016, to make the payment to her attorney. While Cohen noted that he was not reimbursed by Trump’s business or campaign, he did not rule out the possibility that he was reimbursed by Trump personally.

The Journal also reported on Tuesday that First Republic Bank flagged Cohen’s transaction as suspicious and reported it to the Treasury Department. It’s not clear when that occurred, but it was previously reported that the bank used by Clifford’s attorney, City National Bank in Los Angeles, launched it own internal inquiry in September 2017. The year-long lag is unusual, and suggests that the bank may have received more information about the transaction — possibly a subpoena or a visit from regulators. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team would not comment on whether it prompted the inquiry.

Cohen and Trump might have violated the law even if Cohen was just acting on his bosses’ presumed wishes, and still hasn’t been reimbursed. Mueller probe aside, Cohen’s payment could be seen as an illegal campaign donation if his intent was to shield Trump from the political fallout of a porn star going public with her tawdry tale of spanking and Shark Week viewings just before Election Day. There’s no limit on what candidates can donate to their own campaign, but if Trump eventually paid Cohen back, he might have violated campaign-finance laws by failing to report it.

Experts say, however, that it’s unlikely Trump and Cohen would see serious penalties for the crime. (Former senator John Edwards was tried on similar crimes, but the jury was deadlocked on most charges.) On the other hand, the president’s attorney seems almost determined to make the situation worse.

Trump Didn’t Pay Porn Star, as He Stiffed His Lawyer: Report