Wednesday 22 May, 2019

Trump acknowledges porn star hush money payment

(Image: AP: Stormy Daniels, outside a US court on 16 April 2018)

(Image: AP: Stormy Daniels, outside a US court on 16 April 2018)

President Donald Trump acknowledged on Thursday that he repaid his personal lawyer for hush money given to porn actress Stormy Daniels, after previously claiming he didn't know about the payments.

But the president tweeted that the money, paid just before the 2016 election to stifle her claims of an affair, "had nothing to do with the campaign".

Trump said his attorney, Michael Cohen, received a monthly retainer which he used to pay the actress to sign an agreement not to talk about her allegations and thus "stop the false and extortionist accusations made by her about an affair".

Trump's tweets outlining the arrangement came after Rudy Giuliani, one of his attorneys, said on Wednesday that Trump reimbursed Cohen for $130,000 paid to Daniels.

During a TV appearance, Giuliani said the money to repay Cohen had been "funnelled... through the law firm and the president repaid it".

Asked if Trump knew about the arrangement, Giuliani said: "He didn't know about the specifics of it, as far as I know. But he did know about the general arrangement; that Michael would take care of things like this, like I take care of things like this for my clients.”

In another TV appearance on Thursday, Giuliani said Trump didn't know all the details until "maybe 10 days ago". While stressing that Trump denies the relationship, he said Cohen may have seen $130,000 as "cheap".

"They said it wasn't true," Giuliani said. "However, imagine if that came out on October 15, 2016, in the middle of the last debate with Hillary Clinton. Cohen didn't even ask. Cohen made it go away. He did his job."

The comments appeared to contradict statements made by Trump several weeks ago, when he said he didn't know about the payment. Giuliani later suggested to The Wall Street Journal that while Trump had repaid the $130,000, Cohen had settled the payment to Daniels without Trump's knowledge at the time.

Guiliani's revelation seemed aimed at reducing the president's legal exposure. But outside experts said it raised a number of questions, including whether the money represented repayment of an undisclosed loan or could be seen as reimbursement for a campaign expenditure.

The White House referred questions to the president's personal legal team.

Law firms advance expenses for clients as a matter of course, and so there's nothing inherently improper about a lawyer covering a particular payment and then being reimbursed for it.

In this case, though, the client who apparently reimbursed the expense was running for president and the money was paid just days before the election, raising questions about whether Cohen's law practice was functioning as a vendor for the campaign and whether the expense was therefore an unreported campaign expenditure. If so, that could be legally problematic.

Giuliani, a former New York City mayor and ex-US attorney who joined Trump's legal team last month, said the payment "is going to turn out to be perfectly legal" because "that money was not campaign money".

Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, says she had a sexual encounter with Trump in 2006, months after his third wife gave birth to his youngest child, and was paid to keep quiet as part of a nondisclosure agreement she is now seeking to invalidate.

The White House has said Trump denies having a relationship with Daniels.

Get the latest local and international news straight to your mobile phone for free: