Donald Trump’s lawyer used his Trump Organization email while negotiating a $130,000 payment of hush money to a porn actress who says she had an affair with the future president, her attorney said Friday.
The use of Trump company email by the president’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, raises the question of whether Trump was the source of the money paid in 2016 to porn star Stormy Daniels.
Cohen, who says he used personal funds to “facilitate” the payment, has denied that the money came from the Trump Organization or the Trump campaign, leaving open the possibility that it came from Trump himself.
Cohen’s use of Trump Organization email to arrange the payment appeared to heighten the possibility that the arrangement with Daniels ran afoul of the federal law requiring disclosure of campaign contributions.
Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, received the money in October 2016, just days before the presidential election in return for her promise to keep quiet about the extramarital affair that she says Trump had with her in 2006 and 2007.
In complaints filed with the Justice Department and Federal Election Commission, the nonpartisan ethics group Common Cause alleges the hush money was meant to influence the election and thus needed to be disclosed as a campaign donation.
“The email shows conclusively that Mr. Cohen was operating in his capacity at the Trump Organization while negotiating the agreement and providing for the payment to Ms. Daniels,” said Michael Avenatti, Daniels’ attorney. “This included when communicating with his own bank.”
Cohen’s emails were first reported by NBC News.
The first, dated Oct. 26, 2016, was sent to Cohen’s Trump Organization email address by Elizabeth Rappaport, assistant to Gary Farro, senior managing director at First Republic Bank.
“The funds have been deposited into your checking account,” she wrote to Cohen.
Cohen forwarded the email to his Gmail account, then sent it to Keith Davidson, who was Daniels’ attorney at the time.
At the White House on Friday, spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked whether Trump remembered meeting Daniels in 2006 or speaking with Cohen about getting a restraining order last week in Los Angeles to force the adult film performer to honor her confidentiality agreement.
“I’ve addressed this extensively,” Sanders said. “I don’t have anything else to add.”
Federal law bars the use of corporate resources to facilitate campaign contributions.
“Michael Cohen’s use of a Trump Organization email account is evidence that the Trump Organization, through its employee-agent Michael Cohen, was facilitating the making of this contribution,” said Paul S. Ryan, vice president of policy and litigation at Common Cause. “What corporate resources were used? We don’t know.”
If Cohen used nothing other than the Trump Company email server, and if he was unpaid for his legal work on the Daniels confidentiality pact, there might be no violation of the law barring corporate campaign donations, Ryan said.
Cohen and his lawyer, Lawrence Rosen, did not respond to emails seeking comment.
In a statement to CNN, Cohen confirmed that he used Trump Organization email to arrange the payment to Daniels.
Cohen also told CNN that he used money from his own home equity line to make the $130,000 payment. The CNN report did not say whether Cohen was reimbursed.
Preet Bharara, who was fired by Trump as Manhattan U.S. attorney last year, mocked Cohen’s explanation on Twitter.
“Sometimes my personal lawyer will just pay my mortgage off,” he wrote. “Without asking. Such a good guy. I’m lucky.”
Cohen, who has long functioned as Trump’s fixer, won a temporary restraining order from a private arbitrator last week to enforce the confidentiality agreement with Daniels.
Daniels responded Tuesday by suing Trump in Los Angeles in an attempt to void the confidentiality deal, saying Cohen was trying to protect the president by muzzling her with a “bogus” arbitration proceeding.