The acting director of the ethics office, David J. Apol, concluded that Trump’s report “meets the disclosure requirements,” but noted that making that debt public “is required.” The outside group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington had filed a complaint that Trump’s 2017 form had improperly omitted a “loan” from Cohen.
Federal law requires White House officials, including the president, to “report liabilities owed to any creditor that exceeded $10,000 at any time during the reporting period.” It is illegal to “knowingly and willfully” omit or falsify information on disclosure forms, a crime punishable by a fine and up to one year in prison.
Last year, Trump did not disclose any debts to Cohen, who executed a payment of $130,000 to Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, less than two weeks before the 2016 presidential election. Trump, who has denied having a sexual relationship with Daniels during his marriage to Melania Trump, said earlier this month that he reimbursed Cohen.
“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 wrote on Twitter, reversing an earlier statement that he was unaware of the disbursement.
In April, Trump told reporters on Air Force One that he did not know about the payment to Daniels or where Cohen got the money to make it.
Daniels’ attorney, Michael Avenatti, said on MSNBC Wednesday that the new disclosure shows that Trump was not being truthful at that time. The financial report, signed by Trump, notes that Cohen was reimbursed by the president in 2017, at least three months before his Air Force One remarks.
“These guys can’t keep their lies straight,” Avenatti said.
Trump confidant and adviser Rudy Giuliani described the transaction by saying money was “funneled through” Cohen’s law firm.
Trump’s form also says he earned tens of millions of dollars from various assets, mostly real estate holdings. It is impossible to discern the exact stated value of his business empire or precise levels of income because many line items in the records list ranges, not precise figures.