Trump Lawyer’s Porn Star Payoff Could Have Broken the Law. But It Might Not Matter


Campaign finance experts say that a payment to porn star Stormy Daniels arranged by Donald Trump’s personal lawyer could have broken the law, but it’s unlikely that it will lead to any legal consequences.

Trump’s longtime personal attorney, Michael Cohen, conceded Tuesday night that he arranged for the adult film star — whose birth name is Stephanie Clifford — to receive $130,000 just weeks before the 2016 election, but he argued the payment was lawful and was never reimbursed by the Trump Organization or the campaign.

“In a private transaction in 2016, I used my own personal funds to facilitate a payment of $130,000 to Ms. Stephanie Clifford,” Cohen said in a statement, which was first reported by the New York Times. “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. The payment to Ms. Clifford was lawful, and was not a campaign contribution or a campaign expenditure by anyone.”

Before the payment, Daniels told reporters from In Touch magazine and Slate that she’d had an affair with Trump in 2006, but she did not go public before the election. Cohen has maintained that Trump did not have an affair with Daniels but that he paid her anyway.

Experts say that the payment could still be considered a violation because there is a strong argument that it was an unreported “in-kind contribution” — money that directly benefits the campaign even if it does not go into its coffers, in the same way that a building owner allowing free use of a meeting space would have to be reported.

If the FEC deemed the payment an in-kind contribution, it would be in violation of campaign finance laws for exceeding the maximum amount of $2,700 and for not being disclosed by the Trump campaign. That’s the argument being made by Common Cause, which filed a complaint after the Wall Street Journal reported on the payment calling for the FEC and the Department of Justice to investigate it.

“If [the payment] was money to keep damaging information out of the news cycle at a pivotal point in the election … we’re well within the realm of possible violations, specifically an excessive in-kind campaign contribution that was not reported and shared then,” said Stephen Spaulding, a strategist at Common Cause and a former attorney with the Federal Election Commission.

Cohen’s statement, which came in response to the Common Cause filing, may have already had an effect, however. Daniels’ manager, Gina Rodriguez, told the Associated Press on Tuesday that Cohen’s acknowledgement of the payment invalidated the non-disclosure agreement, enabling her to tell her story publicly.

Common Cause is not the only group that thinks the payment could have been a violation. Brendan Fischer, the Federal & FEC Reform Program Director at the Campaign Legal Center, had a similar opinion.

“The fact that this came one month before the election means there is strong evidence that …read more

Source:: Time – Politics

      

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