US President Donald Trump has defended reimbursing US$130,000 to his lawyer for a payment to porn star Stormy Daniels, arguing that it’s “common among celebrities and people of wealth”.
In a series of three tweets posted on Thursday, US time, Trump said no campaign money was used when reimbursing Michael 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 ,” the president tweeted in response to the payment revealed by Rudy Giuliani.
”These agreements are very common among celebrities and people of wealth. In this case it is in full force and effect and will be used in Arbitration for damages against Ms. Clifford (Daniels).
“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. 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 in this transaction.”
The response came after Trump’s new lawyer Rudy Giuliani told Fox News show Hannity the money had been “funnelled … through the law firm and the President repaid it”.
Asked if Mr Trump knew about the arrangement, the former mayor of New York said: “He didn’t know about the specifics of it, as far as I know. But he did know about the general arrangement, that Michael would take care of things like this, like I take care of things like this for my clients. I don’t burden them with every single thing that comes along. These are busy people.”
Mr Trump told reporters several weeks ago he didn’t know about the $US130,000 payment to Ms Daniels as part of a non-disclosure agreement she signed days before the 2016 presidential election.
Asked aboard Air Force One whether he knew about the payment, Mr Trump said flatly: “No.” Mr Trump also said he did not know why Mr Cohen had made the payment or where he got the money.
Mr Giuliani, who joined Mr Trump’s legal team last month, said the President had repaid Mr Cohen over several months, indicating the payments continued through at least the presidential transition, if not into his presidency.
Ms Daniels has said she had a sexual encounter with Mr Trump in 2006 and was paid to keep quiet as part of a non-disclosure agreement she is now seeking to invalidate. She has also filed a defamation suit against Mr Trump, who denies having sex with Ms Daniels.
Ms Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti, called the Giuliani comment “a stunning revelation”.
“Mr Trump evidently has participated in a felony and there must be serious consequences for his conduct and his lies and deception to the American people,” he said.
Mr Cohen’s payment to the President’s accuser in the weeks leading up to the presidential election could be cast as an illegal contribution but not if he were acting on the President’s behest and with his money.