Trump’s Lawyer Demanded Refund For $130,000 Porn-Star Payoff

Contrary to Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s claim (made under oath) that he paid former adult-film actress Stormy Daniels $130,000 out of his own pocket in a gesture of good will, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday that First Republic Bank flagged Cohen’s transaction – made during the final days of the campaign – as suspicious.

As we previously pointed out, Cohen transferred the money to a lawyer for the former adult film actress, who dished on her relationship with Trump during interviews with Inside Edition and In Touch Magazine (the latter interview was recorded in 2011, but the magazine sat on it until this year)…

Back in 2016, Cohen reportedly missed two deadlines to pay off Daniels because he couldn’t get in touch with Trump during the hectic final stretch of the campaign, when the president was contending with the fallout from the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape.

Before receiving the payment, Daniels signed an NDA barring her from discussing her sexual encounters with the president.

Cohen

But after Trump’s victory, Cohen reportedly complained to friends that he had not yet been reimbursed by his most famous client. When approached by WSJ for comment on this story, he offered a terse reply: “Fake News.” That’s largely because Cohen stepped into the breach and put up his own funds to pay Daniels after her lawyers threatened to abnegate the deal and give their client the green light to sit for an interview.

Mr. Cohen had said last month that he had “facilitated” the payment using his own funds, that the deal was a private transaction and that it didn’t violate any laws. He said he wasn’t reimbursed by the Trump campaign or the Trump Organization, his former employer, but declined to answer questions about whether he was reimbursed by Mr. Trump or anyone else.

The White House didn’t respond to a request for comment. Mr. Cohen and White House representatives repeatedly have denied any relationship between Mr. Trump and Ms. Clifford.

Ms. Clifford has said privately and in a 2011 interview with a celebrity magazine that she had a sexual encounter with Mr. Trump after meeting him at a celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe, The Wall Street Journal previously reported.

A spokesman for Ms. Clifford’s lawyer, Keith Davidson, said, “Attorney Davidson can not discuss private client matters.”

The reporting of the transaction by First Republic and Mr. Cohen’s efforts to reach Mr. Trump haven’t previously been reported.

Mr. Cohen created a company called Essential Consultants LLC as a vehicle for the payment to Ms. Clifford, on Oct. 17, 2016, according to Delaware state records and a person familiar with the matter. The $130,000 wire transfer to the client-trust account of Mr. Davidson, Ms. Clifford’s lawyer, was received on Oct. 27 at City National Bank in Los Angeles, the person said.

Under federal law, banks are required to flag transactions that have no business or apparent lawful purpose or that inexplicably diverge from a customer’s typical banking behavior. Suspicious activity reports are filed to the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, where federal investigators can access them.

A year after the payment, City National Bank, the bank used by Daniels’ lawyer, launched an internal inquiry into the payment of the funds into a client-trust account. City National sought information about the source of funds wired to Davidson’s account, an inquiry that was first reported by the Washington Post.

As WSJ explains, the one-year lag between Cohen’s payment and the bank’s inquiry is an unusually long delay. It suggests that City National received new information that prompted it to take a fresh look at the transaction, Charles Intriago, a former federal prosecutor and money-laundering expert, told WSJ.

Tellingly, this new information could include a subpoena for a client’s records, or a visit by regulators (yet another sign that the Mueller probe is still investigating the finances of Trump and his associates). Mueller has also previously sought information about Cohen’s purported role in building a Trump Tower in Moscow in late 2015 and 2016.

Cohen said during a September statement to the House Intel Committee that the Moscow proposal was “solely a real estate deal and nothing more” and noted it was terminated “months before the first primary.”

Whether Trump had direct knowledge of Cohen’s payment and reimbursement could impact an FEC investigation into purported misuse of campaign funds – the payment, experts say, could be construed to represent an illegal campaign contribution. It could also prove coordination between Cohen and Trump, which would also violate campaign finance rules.

Another question: Will angry Democratic lawmakers try to bust Cohen for lying to the Intel Committee about the source of the payment? If so, that could create problems for the Trump legal team, of which Cohen is still a member.