Reporters are starting to zero in on this story not just because of its salaciousness or the (unlikely) possibility of a president and porn star battling in court but because there’s potential illegal activity involved. We’ve been over that before. If the hush-money payment to Stormy Daniels constitutes a campaign contribution under federal law then whoever supplied the funds is in trouble because no such payment was ever reported to the FEC. And if, by chance, the contribution came from the Trump Organization, that’s a double no-no. A business can’t donate that much money to a campaign.
Cohen has denied before that the money came from Trump’s family business but this NBC story got reporters chattering:
But an email uncovered in the last 24 hours and provided to NBC News by Clifford’s current attorney, Michael Avenatti, shows First Republic Bank and Cohen communicated about the money using his Trump company email address, not his personal gmail account.
“I think this document seriously calls into question the prior representation of Mr. Cohen and the White House relating to the source of the monies paid to Ms. Clifford in an effort to silence her,” said Avenatti, who is representing Clifford in a lawsuit against Trump.
I don’t understand why Avenatti or the media would assume that because Cohen used his business email address to discuss the payment, the payment itself probably came from company funds. The idea, I guess, is that if Cohen was sloppy enough not to strictly separate all dealings with Daniels and her lawyer from his business dealings on behalf of the Trump Organization, maybe he was also sloppy enough to have made the payment with Trump Organization money. It’s pure speculation, though — and it contradicts other reporting on the payment. Just a few days ago the media was buzzing over a different story claiming that Cohen had complained privately that he’d never been reimbursed for the $130,000 paid to Daniels.
Well, which is it, media? Did Cohen use his own dough and then get stiffed or did Cohen maybe possibly use Trump Org money, in which case where did the report of him grumbling about the lack of reimbursement come from?
Cohen talked to ABC this afternoon, insisting that the money was in fact his and that people need to chill out:
When asked where the $130,000 sent to Daniels’ attorney came from, Cohen told ABC News “the funds were taken from my home equity line and transferred internally to my LLC account in the same bank.”…
“These incessant attacks against me are meritless and are concocted by the liberal mainstream media to continue to malign our President and distract the country from his historic achievements over the past year. This witch hunt has now gone from ludicrous to insane,” Cohen said in a statement. “You can’t prove a negative. They make up stories based on unnamed, unverified and unreliable sources and that becomes the breaking news of the day. This is no different than the fake dossier that placed me in Prague and thrust me into the center of this Russian collusion delusion.”
Assuming that’s true, Cohen is in the clear at least with respect to using corporate resources to make a campaign contribution. Isn’t he? Well … maybe not. Arguably the email address itself is a “corporate resource” that was used to “facilitate” the payment, whether or not the funds came from the Trump Organization. I find it hard to believe the FEC would ding Cohen for that if everything else about the payment complied with federal regs but that’s the claim from Trump opponents this afternoon.
Meanwhile, Rolling Stone has a new profile of Daniels for which it interviewed, among other people, her assistant Kayla Paige:
“It was just weird to me, because I remember being on set years ago and we would hear [Trump] calling all the time – it was like a joke,” Paige says. “She would put him on speakerphone and walk away and he’d still be talking.” At the time, no one thought much about it, she says, because there wasn’t much to it.
“She was just a girl that met a rich dude that runs pageants, and, like, ‘F*** it, let’s go hang out, who cares?’ ” Paige says. “Who hasn’t gone and f***ed someone we regret?”
In lieu of an exit question, here’s Trump fan and evangelical leader Robert Jeffress last night on Fox noting on the one hand that “Evangelicals still believe in the commandment ‘Thou shalt not have sex with a porn star'” and on the other that “Evangelicals know they’re not compromising their beliefs in order to support this great president.” This is the same guy who, while endorsing Mitt Romney in 2012, found himself quite conflicted by the “dilemma” presented by Romney’s Mormonism, notwithstanding the fact that Romney is palpably one of the most morally upright people ever to run for the presidency.