President Donald Trump’s inner circle has had quite a time keeping its story straight about a payment to a porn actress in 2016.
Originally, Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, said that he paid $130,000 to Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels, from his own money, and without Trump knowing about it. Now, the official tale is that Trump repaid Cohen in installments. His lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, says that (paywall) Trump “didn’t know about the specifics of it.”
The president didn’t report any of this in his financial disclosure report (pdf) last year. If that omission was deliberate, he might have broken two federal laws, according to the former government ethics chief Walter Shaub and fellow lawyer Adav Noti. His disclosures for 2017 are due today, and, given the now-daily news about Cohen and Daniels, it’s pretty implausible that Trump could forget to declare them this time. He would also have to log any other debts he owes Cohen—Giuliani has said that Cohen may have made payments to other women, “if necessary.”
Shaub and Noti point out that Trump’s team have tried to spin the loan as an “expense” and a “retainer,” but argue these descriptions would mischaracterize such a debt, and that he legally has to declare them. The White House didn’t immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.
If Trump does disclose more debts to Cohen, it wouldn’t show exact details about them. The form only requires him to put the name of the creditor, the amount owed within a certain range (i.e. $100,001 to $250,000), the interest rate, and start and end dates.