The bank that Trump lawyer Michael Cohen used to pay $130,000 in hush money to adult film actress Stephanie Clifford — known as Stormy Daniels in the industry — flagged the payment as suspicious, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday.
An LLC that Cohen established used First Republic Bank to pay Clifford in order to keep an alleged sexual encounter between her and Trump under wraps; First Republic later reported the payment to the Treasury Department, one unnamed person with knowledge of the matter told the Journal.
The Journal said it was unclear when First Republic first reported the payment. Cohen previously told the paper, while declining to say why he used his own money to “facilitate a payment” to Clifford, that “just because something isn’t true doesn’t mean that it can’t cause you harm or damage. I will always protect Mr. Trump.”
Days before the 2016 election, Clifford’s lawyer threatened to cancel her nondisclosure agreement with Cohen because Clifford hadn’t yet received the promised money, the Washington Post reported Friday. Ten days later, the Post reported, the money arrived. The timing, according the paper, could support two groups’ complaints that the payment was essentially undocumented election spending.
In January, the campaign finance group Common Cause said Cohen’s payment to Clifford violated election law because the hush money “was an unreported in-kind contribution to Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.” The advocacy group filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission, as did American Bridge 21st Century Foundation, a Democratic Party-aligned advocacy group.
Mr. Cohen had missed two payment deadlines earlier in October “because he couldn’t reach Mr. Trump in the hectic final days of the presidential campaign,” the Journal reported, citing another unnamed person familiar with the matter. Anonymous sources told the Journal that, following the election, Cohen complained to friends that Trump hadn’t reimbursed him for the expense.
Cohen replied to the Journal’s request for comment with two words: “Fake News.”
Clifford acknowledged a 2006 sexual encounter with Trump in a 2011 interview with In Touch magazine.
Clifford and her attorney were using a client-trust account with City National Bank, which received Cohen’s payment on Oct. 27 2016, the Journal reported. The bank asked Clifford’s attorney in September of 2017 about the source of the payment, the Post reported. The Journal noted that the gap between the payment and City National’s internal investigation of it, nearly one year, was unusual.