Trump confirms ‘reimbursement’ of lawyer for payment to porn star

By AFP

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(AFP) – US President Donald Trump confirmed Thursday he reimbursed his personal lawyer for a US$130,000 payment to porn star Stormy Daniels to stop what he described as her “false and extortionist” claims of an affair.

Trump’s comment contradicted his earlier statements the he had no knowledge of the hush payment by his long-time lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen to Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford.

The payment was made days before the November 2016 US presidential election, which has prompted allegations of a possible violation of campaign financing laws.

In a burst of tweets, Trump denied the funds used to make the payment were connected to his campaign, calling it a “private agreement.”

He also said non-disclosure agreements were “very common among celebrities and people of wealth.”

“Mr. Cohen, an attorney, received a monthly retainer, not from the campaign and having nothing to do with the campaign, from which he entered into, through reimbursement, a private contract between two parties, known as a non-disclosure agreement, or NDA,” Trump said.

“The agreement was used to stop the false and extortionist accusations made by her about an affair, despite already having signed a detailed letter admitting that there was no affair,” he said.

“Prior to its violation by Ms Clifford and her attorney, this was a private agreement. Money from the campaign, or campaign contributions, played no roll [sic] in this transaction.”

The admission came after former Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor who recently joined the president’s legal team, disclosed Wednesday that Trump had reimbursed Cohen for the payment over a period of several months.

It also followed an FBI raid in early April on Cohen’s home, office and hotel room in which information related to the payments was reportedly seized.

Daniels, who claims she had an affair with Trump in 2006, has sued to have the non-disclosure agreement invalidated on grounds that he never signed it.

In his tweets, Trump insisted the agreement is “in full force and effect and will be used in Arbitration for damages against Ms Clifford (Daniels),” he said.

– Money’s source –
Giuliani told Fox News host Sean Hannity the money was funneled through a law firm “and the president repaid it.”

“That was money that was paid by his lawyer, the way I would do, out of his law firm funds or whatever funds, it doesn’t matter. The president reimbursed that over a period of several months,” Giuliani said.

He added that the payment did not represent a campaign financing violation because it was “not campaign money.”

Giuliani told The New York Times he had documentation proving Trump had reimbursed the sum, which he said “removes the campaign finance violation” prospect.

“Some time after the campaign is over, they set up a reimbursement, $35,000 a month, out of his personal family account,” Giuliani told the Times, adding that Trump gave Cohen between US$460,000 and US$470,000 via this method to repay the sum to the porn star as well as “incidental expenses.”

Trump had previously denied all knowledge of the payment to Daniels, before admitting last week that Cohen struck a “deal” with the porn star on his behalf.

Asked by reporters on Air Force One earlier this month about the deal, Trump said: “You’ll have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney. You’ll have to ask Michael,” he said.

Pressed on whether he knew where Cohen got the money to make the payment, he said: “No, I don’t know. No.”

– ‘Blatant lie’ –
Giuliani also told The Wall Street Journal Trump was “probably not aware” of the payment at the time it was made, having given Cohen broad “discretion to solve” a variety of situations.

Daniels’ lawyer Michael Avenatti reacted swiftly to the revelation, calling out the US president over his “lies.”

“We predicted months ago that it would be proven that the American people had been lied to as to the US$130k payment and what Mr. Trump knew, when he knew it and what he did in connection with it,” he wrote on Twitter.

“Every American, regardless of their politics, should be outraged by what we have now learned. Mr Trump stood on AF1 and blatantly lied.”

Daniels filed a lawsuit against the president on Monday for defamation after he trashed her claim that she had been threatened by a man representing Trump in 2011.

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