Trump’s Stormy Legal Affair

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Donald Trump, Michael Cohen, Rudy Giulliani
“Stormy Daniels,” 2007

President Trump continues to deny that he paid pornography actress “Stormy Daniels” (Stephanie Clifford) with 2016 campaign funds. But that’s not stopping detractors, or Stormy, from continuing their legal bombardment of the administration.

Who Knew What?

Many in the White House feel bombarded as well. It seems that only a select few knew of the payments, including Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen and now Rudy Giuliani, a former presidential hopeful himself.

The news broke out about the alleged affair when Ms. Clifford sued the President to get out of the non-disclosure agreement she signed. She stipulates that the agreement was not legal because the President did not sign the contract himself. Trump’s legal team is countersuing Clifford for breaking the agreement.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is on the brunt end of press accusations as reporters ask if she lied when previously being questioned about the affair and the payments. Her refrain has been that she represented the truth as best she could with the information she had. It’s understandable that not all of Trump’s senior staff knew about the debacle. The President’s personal life is separate from his public life to some degree, and the White House helps to administer the government, not the President’s personal problems at law.

The interest of the American people, however, is not whether Trump had a sexual encounter with the woman or whether the agreement enforcing her to keep quiet is valid. The primary issues are the President’s honesty to the public and his use of campaign funding.

Trump’s Honesty at Stake

The question is how much Trump knew about the arrangement and when. Giuliani insists that the President didn’t know the specifics until the story broke. He said that Cohen received a total sum of up to $470,000 in reimbursements for expenses during the campaign. The money paid to Clifford was included in that reimbursement, and the entire amount was paid out of Trump’s personal accounts.

The problem is that Trump’s financial disclosure statements did not show a standing debt to Cohen. Why not? Was it an oversight or part of the cover-up? No matter the reason, the President will need to answer for the false filing.

Illegal Use of Campaign Funds?

Was Ms. Clifford paid $130,000 before the 2016 Presidential election to keep quiet about a 2006 affair with Donald Trump? No one denies it. The then-candidate Donald Trump would want to keep an affair with a porn star secret. He and his staff would recognize it to be bad press.

The question is whether he used money specially earmarked for the campaign to pay Daniels. It’s plausible that he and his staff would have seen it as an indirect campaign expense. It’s also a matter of public record that Trump and his personal staff can easily pay $130,000 without using campaign funding.

Only the results of the ongoing investigation will answer these questions.