Trump Lawyer Says He Paid Former Adult Film Star $130,000 In A Private Transaction
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
The story of President Trump's alleged sexual encounter with an adult film star is a little more complicated today. A personal attorney to Trump, Michael Cohen, told The New York Times he was the one who paid hush money to Stephanie Clifford, known professionally as Stormy Daniels. Now the question is, was that payment to help Trump win the election? NPR's Peter Overby reports.
PETER OVERBY, BYLINE: The payment was $130,000. Cohen told The Times it was a private transaction not connected to the campaign. Quote, "I used my own personal funds to facilitate a payment to Stephanie Clifford." He said, quoting again, "neither The Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction, and neither reimbursed me for the payment either directly or indirectly." So he's saying it didn't come from the two organizations targeted in a legal complaint to the Federal Election Commission. But that may not settle the issue.
PAUL RYAN: He did not remove the possibility that he was reimbursed by Donald Trump himself or by someone other than Donald Trump for this payment.
OVERBY: Paul Ryan is a lawyer with Common Cause, the watchdog group that filed the complaint. It calls the $130,000 and in-kind contribution to Trump, one that would be nearly 25 times the legal limit. Ryan pointed out that in the campaign's final month, Trump the candidate had good reason to want Clifford to keep quiet. She was talking with several media outlets about going public.
RYAN: It's also worth noting that this came a week after the "Access Hollywood" tapes, so the Trump campaign was already mired in sexual misconduct allegations.
OVERBY: Larry Noble of the Campaign Legal Center isn't involved in the FEC case, but he said it's another example of Team Trump not taking the rules seriously.
LARRY NOBLE: I assume they never thought this would come out.
OVERBY: Not everyone sees a problem. Here's Jan Baran, a senior partner with the Wiley Rein law firm in D.C., on what Cohen said.
JAN BARAN: His statement confirms that this transaction, this episode was private, personal and in no way directly related with the campaign to the point of triggering campaign finance laws.
OVERBY: And the limited amount of law in this area may actually be more on Trump's side. The big case involved Democrat John Edwards. He got his mistress pregnant while he was running for president in 2007. Two donors paid thousands of dollars to keep her out of the public eye. Edwards was indicted on the principle that those payments amounted to campaign contributions, something he denied to ABC News.
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JOHN EDWARDS: I've never asked anybody to pay a dime of money, never been told that any money's been paid.
OVERBY: Ultimately Edwards was acquitted on one count, and the judge declared a mistrial on the other five. Peter Overby, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.