4 May 2018

Trump: No campaign cash paid to Daniels

7:11 am on 4 May 2018

US President Donald Trump has denied money used to buy a porn star's silence came from election campaign funds.

US President Donald Trump and actress Stephanie Clifford, who uses the stage name Stormy Daniels.

US President Donald Trump and actress Stephanie Clifford, who uses the stage name Stormy Daniels. Photo: AFP

He admitted, in a series of tweets, that lawyer Michael Cohen had paid off Stormy Daniels during the campaign and that he was reimbursed.

It was the first time the president has referred directly to the payment, although he remains adamant there was no affair with Ms Daniels.

Use of campaign funds would be a violation of federal law.

Earlier, his legal aide Rudy Giuliani had said the money was Mr Trump's personal cash.

The president fired off three tweets on Thursday morning, focusing on the reimbursement and a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) with Daniels.

Mr Trump's argument appears to be that the NDA was a typical agreement entered into by celebrities and therefore not an election-related matter.

This could be crucial in determining whether the $US130,000 ($NZ185,000) paid to Ms Daniels was legal.

The actress says she had an affair with Mr Trump in 2006 and she slept with him once.

When asked by reporters a month ago if he knew about the payment to Ms Daniels, Mr Trump said: "No."

When asked why the payment was given to Ms Daniels, he added: "You'll have to ask Michael Cohen."

Speaking on Fox TV last week, Mr Trump suggested some knowledge of the matter in admitting Mr Cohen had represented him during the "crazy Stormy Daniels deal", but he did not go into specifics.

Mr Cohen, for his part, told the New York Times in February: "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."

How this relates to any alleged personal repayments by Mr Trump is unclear.

Mr Cohen is facing a criminal investigation. FBI agents searched his home and office in New York recently in relation to the NDA.

US federal law restricts how much individuals and organisations can contribute to campaign financing, and there are also strict regulations on the disclosure of the financing.

The key question may be whether the money was used to prevent Mr Trump's reputation being harmed during the campaign, and therefore be deemed as related to the election.

Legal expert Lawrence Noble told the Washington Post: "If the purpose of this was to stop [Daniels] from hurting the campaign, then what you have is Cohen made a loan to the campaign."

The $130,000 would exceed the amount an individual can donate to a presidential campaign.

Any repayment by the Trump campaign would violate the law.

But presidential candidates are allowed to contribute an unlimited amount to their own campaign. Mr Trump may be arguing that the personal nature of the repayment makes it legal.

If the $130,000 were deemed to have been a loan to Mr Cohen, the president would only have had to disclose the repayment to the Federal Election Commission if it were an election-related expense.

There is no mention of any debt to Mr Cohen on Mr Trump's personal financial disclosure form from June 2017.

Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani has been chaperoning Donald Trump this week.

Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani with Donald Trump in 2016. Photo: AFP

Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani recently joined Mr Trump's legal team and had earlier been interviewed by Sean Hannity on Fox News, surprising many with his comments.

He was the first to say Mr Trump repaid the money.

He added that the president "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".

Mr Giuliani later spoke to the New York Times, saying: "Some time after the campaign is over, they set up a reimbursement, $35,000 a month, out of his personal family account." The sum paid was $460,000-$470,000, including expenses, he said.

He also said Mr Trump was aware of what he was going to say on Fox News and that he had spoken to the president before and after the interview.


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