Michael Cohen, a longtime personal attorney, for President Trump said that he paid $130,000 to Stormy Daniels, an adult-film star whose real name is Stephanie Clifford. Daniels had told people she had an affair with Trump a decade before he won the presidency.
Cohen, who has called himself the “fix-it guy” for Trump, said he paid Daniels using his own money, rather than involving the Trump Organization or the Trump presidential campaign. His comments came after Common Cause, a watchdog group, argued that the payout should be viewed as an unreported campaign expense, which Cohen denied.
“I am Mr. Trump’s longtime special counsel and I have proudly served in that role for more than a decade,” Cohen said Tuesday night in a statement first reported by the New York Times. “In a private transaction in 2016, I used my own personal funds to facilitate a payment of $130,000 to Ms. Stephanie Clifford. 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.”
In his statement, Cohen did not say why he made a payment to Daniels or whether Trump reimbursed him or knew about the payment. He did not respond to follow-up questions about these topics.
After Cohen’s statement Tuesday night, Paul S. Ryan, a campaign finance expert with Common Cause, said “the timing and circumstances” of the payment “make it appear that the hush money was paid to Daniels in an effort to influence the election.” He called for the Federal Election Commission and Justice Department to investigate. Cohen maintains that the payment was “lawful, and was not a campaign contribution or a campaign expenditure by anyone.”
The White House did not respond to a request for comment late Tuesday night.
• The $130,000 payment to Daniels was first revealed in the Wall Street Journal on Jan. 12. The Journal reported that Cohen negotiated the payment to Daniels not long before the 2016 presidential election, which came as Trump was facing accusations of unwanted sexual contact from more than a dozen women.
• After the Journal’s story was published, two news organizations — Slate and In Touch — revealed that Daniels had told at least two reporters her accounts of a relationship with Trump.
• Daniels has appeared publicly since the payout story broke, but she has remained coy about what exactly happened. When she was asked on “Inside Edition” whether she had a sexual relationship with Trump and was paid not to discuss it, Daniels remained silent.
• Not long before an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel’s show after Trump’s State of the Union address last month, a signed statement bearing Daniels’s name was released, denying any affair with Trump. Gina Rodriguez, a representative for Daniels, confirmed the authenticity of the statement, which denied the affair but did not explicitly deny that Daniels had signed a nondisclosure agreement or received a financial settlement.
• Last month, Common Cause announced that it was filing federal complaints alleging that the reported $130,000 payout may have violated campaign finance laws. The pair of complaints filed by Common Cause said that regardless of where the $130,000 payment originated — even “if Donald J. Trump provided the funds” — the money was aimed at affecting the election and then never reported.
Daniels has said she met Trump at a celebrity golf tournament in July 2006, at a time when he was a reality television star whose wife, Melania, had recently given birth to their son, Barron. Daniels was working at a booth promoting the adult-film company Wicked Pictures.
In Touch, the celebrity magazine, published a sprawling transcript of an interview Daniels gave to a reporter in 2011, during which Daniels discussed having a sexual encounter with Trump at the tournament and then speaking with him on the phone or seeing him in person for about a year. Jordi Lippe-McGraw, the reporter who conducted the interview by phone, confirmed to The Washington Post that the transcript accurately reflected the interview.
Jacob Weisberg, chairman and editor in chief of the Slate Group, said she told him the same things when they spoke on the phone and through text messages over three months in 2016.