by Maggie Haberman
Michael D. Cohen, President Donald Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, said Tuesday that he paid $130,000 out of his own pocket to a pornographic-film actress who had once claimed to have had an affair with Trump.
In the most detailed explanation of the 2016 payment made to the actress, Stephanie Clifford, Cohen, who worked as a counsel to the Trump Organization for more than a decade, said he was not reimbursed for the payment.
“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,” Cohen said in a statement to The New York Times. “The payment to Ms. Clifford was lawful, and was not a campaign contribution or a campaign expenditure by anyone.”
He declined to answer several follow-up questions, including whether Trump had been aware that he made the payment, why he made the payment or whether he had made similar payments to other people over the years.
Cohen has previously said that Trump has denied an affair with Clifford, whose stage name is Stormy Daniels.
Cohen’s statement about what he called “a private transaction” was the first time that he has acknowledged a role in the payment, which was first reported in January by The Wall Street Journal.
Cohen said that he had given a similar statement to the Federal Election Commission in response to a complaint filed by the government watchdog group Common Cause, which filed a complaint saying that the payment, which was made through a limited liability company that Cohen established, was an in-kind contribution to the Trump campaign.
Officials with Common Cause also sought to determine whether the payment was made by the Trump Organization or another person.
“The complaint alleges that I somehow violated campaign finance laws by facilitating an excess, in-kind contribution,” Cohen said in his statement. “The allegations in the complaint are factually unsupported and without legal merit, and my counsel has submitted a response to the FEC.”
He said he would not make any additional comments about the commission complaint “or regarding Ms. Clifford.”
Cohen was among Trump’s fiercest defenders during his time at the Trump Organization, often telling reporters during the 2016 presidential campaign that even false information about Trump could be damaging if printed. Clifford had told her story to the magazine In Touch in 2011, as well as the gossip website TheDirty.com. Both accounts were published last month after the report of the 2016 payment.
In fall 2016, Clifford was once again in discussion with news outlets, this time more mainstream. The payment from Cohen to Clifford reportedly came a few weeks before Election Day.
Clifford has not publicly denied an affair with Trump. A statement released by Cohen in her name in January denied an affair, but in interviews, she has refused to directly answer questions about it.