Trump discloses payment to attorney who paid off porn star

WASHINGTON • US President Donald Trump has formally disclosed that he reimbursed his personal attorney more than US$100,000 (S$134,000) last year, apparently in connection with the payment of hush money to a porn star, government records show.

The disclosure caps a series of contradictory statements from Mr Trump and his representatives on the scandal swirling around lawyer Michael Cohen - which has widened to ensnare major corporations and a Russian oligarch.

The documents released on Wednesday by a US government ethics body do not specify the reason for the payments to Mr Cohen, who paid US$130,000 to adult film actress Stormy Daniels in the run-up to the 2016 election.

Ms Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, claims she had a tryst with Mr Trump in 2006 while he was married. The President denies the affair, and initially denied all knowledge of the payment, which Mr Cohen has acknowledged was intended to stop her from going public with the allegations.

Mr Trump's claim began to unravel early this month, however, after Mr Rudy Giuliani, a new member of the President's legal team, said Mr Trump had reimbursed Mr Cohen for the sum paid to Ms Daniels - and the President himself subsequently acknowledged the repayment.

A footnote to disclosures submitted on Tuesday to the Office of Government Ethics said Mr Cohen had incurred "expenses" on Mr Trump's behalf in 2016 of between $100,001 and $250,000.

"Mr Cohen sought reimbursement of those expenses and Mr Trump fully reimbursed Mr Cohen in 2017," it said.

Mr Trump's filing states that the President was not required to disclose Mr Cohen's expenses, but was doing so in the interest of transparency.

Ms Daniels is suing to be released from the hush agreement reached with Mr Cohen, claiming it is invalid because Mr Trump never signed it. The President's lawyer, meanwhile, finds himself under investigation by federal prosecutors who seized reams of evidence in raids on his home and office last month but have not revealed what crimes he may have committed.

The Washington Post reported that Mr Cohen is under investigation for possible bank fraud, wire fraud and campaign finance violations.

Mr Cohen also stands accused of seeking to cash in on his proximity to the President, after it emerged he received millions of dollars from a Russian oligarch and major corporations seeking access to the administration.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 18, 2018, with the headline 'Trump discloses payment to attorney who paid off porn star'. Print Edition | Subscribe