President Donald Trump said Thursday he did not know his personal attorney paid porn star Stormy Daniels (aka Stephanie Clifford) $130,000 just days before the 2016 presidential election to keep quiet about having sex with him.
He also said he did not know where attorney Michael Cohen got the money to make the payment but would not say one way or another if any funds was ever set up to cover such expenses.
“You can’t have an agreement when one party claims to know nothing about it,” declared Michael Avenatti, Daniel’s attorney. “The strength of our case just went up exponentially.”
By making the payment to avoid public disclosure of the sexual contact shortly just after Trump’s third wife gave birth to their son, in an obvious attempt to avoid publicity that could hurt the campaign, Cohen — at the very least — made an illegal campaign contribution that went way, way over the limit of $2,700.
Political watchdog Common Cause, agrees and says so in the complaint filed with both the Justice Department and the Federal Election Committee.
The complaint states;
(Cohen) made an illegally large in-kind contribution to the Trump campaign . . . [and that] Essential Consultants LLC, through which the payment was routed, made an illegal contribution to the Trump campaign.
In addition, by withholding information about the payment from Trump, Cohen clearly violates New York State Bar rules that require a lawyer to inform a client of “material developments in the mattter, including settlement or plea offers.”
That action could, and many argue should, strip Cohen of his license to practice law and face other legal charges.
Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post notes that Trump’s evasiveness on whether or not he has a slush fund to pay off women he has sexually harassed or attacked makes her and others wonder how many other women have received similar payments over the years.
Rubin quotes Norman Eisen, ethics expert and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, who says Trump could be lying about not knowing of the payment:
It has to be taken with a large grain of salt because of his history of lying — over 2000 times in his first year in office alone according to the Post.
Trump’s statement also makes things much worse for his lawyer, Mr. Cohen. Legal ethics rules prohibit settling disputes without informing your client, and lending or giving your client large sums of money to fund such settlements. An investigation by the New York state bar of Cohen just became a lot more likely. Trump’s statement, if true, also removes the less serious campaign-finance violation, that Trump himself funded this contribution to his campaign, in favor of a far more serious one: that Cohen gave the campaign an in-kind contribution of $130,000.
In a more serious consideration, Rubin concludes:
A president trying to hide one or more (a flock?) of untoward sexual encounters is a sitting duck for blackmail. One does not need to believe all the sordid details in the Christopher Steele dossier to suspect that Trump’s sexual misconduct would be of great interest to a hostile power attempting to gain leverage.
For now, we know two things: The Republican majorities in the House and Senate continue to protect Trump not only from inquiry into his sexual conduct, but from inquiries into his receipt of emoluments and ongoing conflicts of interest. To hold him politically accountable and to dissipate the cloud of financial corruption hanging over his head will require a change in control of Congress. Moreover, no Republican can say with confidence what else is out there, or be certain there are not even more damning accusations to come. Having made their bed . . . well, you get the idea. They have tied themselves to the mast of a morally bankrupt person and will suffer the political consequences.
As an old cliche about Washington reminds us: Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
It sure does.
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