Three months after the news broke that Donald Trump’s personal attorney paid off a porn star a few weeks before the 2016 election, the president has finally settled on an explanation: He “fully reimbursed” Michael Cohen in 2017, according to his new financial disclosure released Wednesday.
“In the interest of transparency, while not required to be disclosed as ‘reportable liabilities’ on Part 8, in 2016 expenses were incurred by one of Donald J. Trump’s attorneys, Michael Cohen. Mr. Cohen sought reimbursement of those expenses and Mr. Trump fully reimbursed Mr. Cohen in 2017. The category of value would be $100,001 — $250,000 and the interest rate would be zero,” the note reads.
(The Office of Government Ethics, for what it’s worth, disagrees, asserting the payment was required to be disclosed.)
The president’s annual disclosure form doesn’t specify what Cohen’s expenses included, and the information was appended as a brief footnote on the 45th page of the document.
But the reimbursement almost certainly refers to the $130,000 in hush money that Cohen paid to the adult film star Stormy Daniels to ensure she’d keep quiet about an alleged affair she had with Trump in 2006. Contradicting earlier claims, Trump’s legal team now admits the president reimbursed Cohen for the payment.
Daniels' attorney even celebrated with his usual hashtag.
Explanations about the structure of the transaction have been all over the map. Cohen initially claimed he had paid the money out of his own pocket without reimbursement by refinancing his home, and the White House also initially asserted that Trump’s longtime fixer had acted on his own, without the knowledge or financial support of the president.
In an April interview aboard Air Force One, the president himself denied knowing about the payment or where the money for it came from.
No,” Trump said in response to a reporter's question. “I don’t know.”
That all changed on May 2, when former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, now a member of Trump’s legal team, went on Fox News and asserted that Trump had in fact reimbursed Cohen for the payment. The sudden admission was a legal tactic aimed at thwarting any campaign finance investigations, Giuliani explained to the Times.
“That removes the campaign finance violation, and we have all the documentary proof for it,” he said. Giuliani later added the president was unaware he had expended $130,000, which he said was paid in a dozen or so installments of $35,000 each, for a total of about $420,000 worth of unspecified “expenses” including the payoff.
“I don't think the president realized he paid him (Cohen) back for that specific thing until we [his legal team] made him aware of the paperwork,” Giuliani told NBC a few days after he started doing TV appearances as Trump's lawyer.
Giuliani told the network the president responded, "Oh my goodness, I guess that's what it was for.”
The president’s financial disclosure forms were filed about two weeks after Giuliani’s press tour kicked off.
But it looks like Trump’s money wasn’t all flowing out to his lawyers — according to the forms, he made somewhere in the neighborhood of $400 and $2,000 in residuals from appearances he made on “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air” and “The Little Rascals.”
He also says he made around $40 million from Mar-a-Lago and his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club alone, which involved the Secret Service accompanying him on dozens of weekend jaunts. He also made more than $700,000 of commissions at the Trump Model Management modeling agency.
And Donald wasn’t the only Trump making money off appearances last year — Melania pulled in somewhere between $100,000 and $1 million in royalties from Getty Images.
Cover image: Michael Cohen, former personal attorney for U.S. President Donald Trump, exits the Loews Regency Hotel, May 11, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)