Annotated: Trump’s lawyer’s admission to paying off a porn star with “personal funds”

Trump denies having an affair with porn actress Stormy Daniels
Trump denies having an affair with porn actress Stormy Daniels
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President Donald Trump’s longtime attorney Michael Cohen released a statement last night about a notorious $130,000 payment he made in 2016 to former porn actor Stephanie Clifford, whose stage name is Stormy Daniels.

Yesterday’s statement has been widely interpreted (paywall) as Cohen claiming he paid Daniels “out of his own pocket” on behalf of Trump. However, the full statement is far more ambiguous.

Read the letter itself below. Click on the footnote numbers for background and explanation:

“In late January 2018, I received a copy of a complaint filed at the Federal Election Commission (FEC) by Common Cause. The complaint alleges that I somehow violated campaign finance laws by facilitating an excess, in-kind contribution.1 The allegations in the complaint are factually unsupported and without legal merit, and my counsel has submitted a response to the FEC.

I am Mr Trump’s longtime special counsel and I have proudly served in that role for more than a decade. In a private transaction in 2016, I used my own personal funds to facilitate a payment of $130,000 to Ms Stephanie Clifford.2 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.3 The payment to Ms Clifford was lawful, and was not a campaign contribution or a campaign expenditure by anyone.4

I do not plan to provide any further comment on the FEC matter or regarding Ms Clifford.”

“Just because something isn’t true doesn’t mean that it can’t cause you harm or damage. I will always protect Mr Trump.”5

In January, the Wall Street Journal alleged (paywall) that Cohen paid Daniels to stop her from going public with allegations that she had an affair with Trump in 2006, months after his youngest son was born. Daniels first said that they had an affair in 2011, but now denies that it happened. Trump also denies it.