WASHINGTON — Michael Cohen, a longtime lawyer for President Trump, told the New York Times he personally paid porn star Stormy Daniels $130,000 of his own money after she claimed to have had an affair with Trump. In a subsequent statement texted to Yahoo News, Cohen suggested that the money was not an admission that Daniels’s claims were true and described the payment as a product of his fierce loyalty to the president.
“Just because something isn’t true doesn’t mean that it can’t cause you harm or damage,” Cohen said. “I will always protect Mr. Trump,”
Cohen’s payment to Daniels was first reported by the Wall Street Journal last month. The newspaper, which said Daniels “privately alleged” her rendezvous with Trump took place at a celebrity golf tournament where they met in 2006, reported that Cohen gave Daniels the six-figure sum as part of a nondisclosure agreement that barred her from discussing her alleged dalliance with Trump. The encounter between Trump and Daniels would have taken place shortly after he married Melania Trump.
At the time of that first report, Cohen told Yahoo News that Trump “vehemently denies any such occurrence.” Cohen also provided Yahoo News and other news outlets with a signed statement from Daniels in which she said the rumors of an affair were “absolutely false” and insisted that Trump “was a complete gentleman to me and EVERYONE in my presence.” In the statement, Daniels also said “rumors that I have received hush money from Donald Trump are completely false.” The WSJ subsequently documented how Cohen used a secretive Delaware company to pay Daniels the month before the 2016 presidential election.
On Tuesday evening, Cohen admitted to the New York Times that he had indeed made the $130,000 payment. It was the first time he confirmed his involvement with the transaction.
“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,” Cohen said. “The payment to Ms. Clifford was lawful, and was not a campaign contribution or a campaign expenditure by anyone.”
Trump has previously ignored questions from Yahoo News about why Cohen paid Daniels.
Cohen, who did not respond to questions from Yahoo News about whether Trump was aware of the payment, spent almost a decade as an attorney at the president’s real estate company, the Trump Organization. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Cohen helped lead minority outreach efforts for Trump. Cohen left the Trump Organization in January 2017 but remained Trump’s personal attorney.
Allegations of an affair between Trump and Daniels first surfaced in October 2011 on the blog TheDirty.com. The celebrity magazine In Touch said it conducted a 2011 interview with Daniels in which she described sexual relations with Trump as “textbook generic.” In Touch claimed Daniels also passed a polygraph test about the alleged tryst with Trump. Slate editor in chief Jacob Weisberg reported that Daniels told him about the alleged affair and the details of her payment agreement with Cohen before the 2016 election. Daniels, whose given name is Stephanie Clifford, has starred in a slew of films, including “Happy Endings,” “The Madam” and “Sexbots: Programmed for Pleasure.”
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