He did not mention the $130,000 reimbursement to Cohen for paying off Stormy Daniels in last year’s financial disclosure, which left him in a predicament. Even if Trump somehow wriggles off the campaign-finance hook for that reimbursement (for instance, if the FEC decides that it wasn’t a “campaign contribution”), he’d still arguably have broken the law by failing to disclose the reimbursement on his federal financial disclosure last year. That disclosure was signed under penalty of perjury attesting that all information it contained was true to the best of Trump’s knowledge. (Although, interestingly, one of his lawyers tried to get the Office of Government Ethics to accept the form *without* Trump’s signature at the time. How come?)
In any case, Trump and Rudy Giuliani came up with a belated explanation for why the Cohen reimbursement wasn’t on last year’s form. Supposedly, Trump didn’t know he’d done it. Cohen paid off Daniels without his knowledge and then Trump inadvertently reimbursed him over the course of several months by paying him a fixed amount every month as part of his “retainer.” Which is nonsense, but that’s their story and they’re sticking to it.
Today he filed a new annual financial disclosure, with people watching for two things. One: Would he disclose the reimbursement to Cohen now? And two: What amount would he list as the reimbursement? If there are other hush-money payoffs out there that Cohen covered for Trump and was then reimbursed for, you’d expect POTUS to have gotten a firm accounting of them from him by now and to include the total amount on today’s form. Results:
A footnote in the disclosure said that Mr. Cohen had requested reimbursement of the expenses incurred in 2016 and Mr. Trump had repaid it in full in 2017. It did not give an exact amount of the payment but said it was between $100,001 and $250,000…
Mr. Trump’s attorney, Rudolph W. Giuliani, had said previously that Mr. Cohen was paid $460,000 or $470,000 from Mr. Trump, which also included money for “incidental expenses” that he had incurred on Mr. Trump’s behalf.
Trump didn’t need to disclose the exact total amount of money loaned to him by Cohen, just a range. The range he gave obviously covers $130,000 and conceivably more — but only up to $250,000. If another hush-money reimbursement is revealed and the sum of that payment plus the Daniels payment exceeds $250K, he’s either perjured himself or he’s going to have to try to convince the country that somehow he only found out about the new reimbursement *after* he filed today’s paperwork.
An interesting postscript to the financial disclosure:
NEW: Ethics office sending letter to Rod Rosenstein stating that Michael Cohen's payment on behalf of Trump was a debt and may be relevant to "any inquiry" Rosenstein may be pursuing. pic.twitter.com/e22Jfuozic
— Ari Melber (@AriMelber) May 16, 2018
Walter Shaub, who used to head the Office of Government Ethics before Apol, was struck by that: “This is tantamount to a criminal referral. OGE has effectively reported the president to DOJ for potentially committing a crime. Dave Apol comes through in the end!!” Does Apol have reason to believe that the DOJ is investigating Trump for possible perjury in omitting the Cohen payment from last year’s disclosure? If the DOJ has evidence that POTUS knew about the reimbursement before he filed last year’s form and deliberately omitted it from his disclosure, that would be a problem. And if the DOJ has evidence that Cohen made other “loans” to Trump in 2016-17 that exceed $250,000 total when POTUS only claimed $250K, that would also be a problem.
Another potential Cohen-related problem: Errrrr…
Donald Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, is facing claims he asked a Middle Eastern official for millions of dollars to give to ‘Trump family members’ in a meeting at Trump Tower weeks after the president’s election victory, DailyMail.com can reveal…
Last week DailyMail.com revealed that Al-Rumaihi was accused in court documents of boasting about bribing disgraced Trump former aide Michael Flynn, and attempting to bribe Trump’s former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon – charges which the investor denies.
The Kuwaiti source told DailyMail.com that following DailyMail.com’s disclosure of the court case, Al-Rumaihi called him and boasted that Cohen had asked him for money in exchange for influence in the Trump administration.
The official said: ‘He said Cohen told him to send millions to various members of the Trump family.’ Al-Rumaihi did not do so, the official added. The Trump family members were not named.
The sourcing is thin and it’s strange that the Daily Mail would have a bombshell like that when neither the NYT nor WaPo have heard of it, but hoo boy. Cohen soliciting bribes — sorry, I mean “consulting fees” — from foreign officials would be shady as hell but maybe not illegal. (Although Cohen himself was under consideration for a government job at the time, do note.) Cohen specifying that he intended to funnel some of that money to Trump family members, some of whom were being lined up to work in the White House, would be far more dubious. Which Trump family members?
Seems unlikely at first blush, but Al-Rumaihi’s contact with Cohen has also been on Michael Avenatti’s radar recently. And Avenatti seems to know more about Cohen’s finances than virtually anyone else, possibly more than he’s prepared to reveal right now. Exit quotation from the man himself, who’s taking a short break this afternoon from his new hobby of attacking reporters:
Mr. Trump’s disclosure today conclusively proves that the American people were deceived by Mr. Cohen, Mr. Trump, Mr. Schwartz, the WH, and Mr. Giuliani. This was NOT an accident and it was not isolated. Cover-ups should always matter. #Basta
— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) May 16, 2018