It’s taken awhile for the smoke to clear from Rudy Giuliani’s admission that Donald Trump reimbursed Michael Cohen for his payoff to Stormy Daniels, followed Rudy’s confusing claim that Trump paid Cohen the money in monthly installments, followed by Trump’s claim that the payments were a retainer fee. But the upshot is that Trump is now claiming he paid the funds out of his own pocket, and therefore he didn’t violate campaign finance laws. The trouble: Daniels’ attorney just blew a gaping hole in all of this.
The legal question here is not so much where the funds came from, but whether the payoff was an attempt at influencing the outcome of the election. At this point Trump and Cohen appear to be banking on the notion that, even though the timing was rather obvious, no one can legally prove the payoff was in fact election related. However, Stormy Daniels’ attorney Michael Avenatti appeared on the Lawrence O’Donnell show on MSNBC and revealed that there is in fact proof of this.
Avenatti confirmed on-air last night that when Michael Cohen and Daniels’ then-attorney Keith Davidson were negotiating the payoff, there was extensive discussion about the need for this to happen before the election. Two weeks ago the Washington Post reported that Davidson was cooperating with the Feds on this matter, which means he’s surely given prosectors the evidence that proves this.
This means that Michael Cohen was knowingly seeking to violate federal campaign laws by making this payoff for the specific purpose of influencing the outcome of the election. Because Donald Trump is now admitting he reimbursed Cohen for this payoff, it means Trump also committed felony violations of federal campaign laws. Trump’s latest story has backfired on hm already. Avenatti has been a step ahead of Trump and Cohen all along, and he just proved it again.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report