Trump repaid Stormy money to lawyer
Disclosure shows US president gave back $100,000 hush cash
US President Donald Trump has acknowledged for the first time in an ethics disclosure that he repaid more than $100,000 (€85,000) to former personal attorney Michael Cohen, renewing questions about Mr Trump's ties to porn star Stormy Daniels.
The disclosure underscored the inconsistency of explanations by Mr Trump and aides about a $130,000 (€110,000) payment made by Mr Cohen to Ms Daniels before the 2016 presidential election to buy her silence over an alleged sexual encounter with Mr Trump in 2006.
Signed by Mr Trump and released by the US Office of Government Ethics, the disclosure also drew comment from watchdog groups and a senior Democratic lawmaker about possible violations of campaign finance law, which requires public disclosure of expenses meant to influence the election.
Common Cause, a non-partisan watchdog group in Washington, has already filed a complaint with the US Federal Election Commission, claiming Mr Trump broke the law when his campaign excluded details about the $130,000 payment in legally mandated returns.
Mr Trump's acknowledgment that he reimbursed Mr Cohen puts the president "at the middle of all of the campaign finance violations", said Paul Ryan, head of litigation at Common Cause.
"He knowingly and wilfully caused his campaign to not disclose this expenditure, and that's a criminal violation."
The latest ethics disclosure did not describe the purpose or the recipient of the original 2016 payment to a "third party" made by Mr Cohen, for which he was reimbursed by Mr Trump.
Mr Cohen has acknowledged paying Ms Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford.
Also, Rudy Giuliani, recently named Mr Trump's personal attorney, has said Mr Trump reimbursed Mr Cohen for the original $130,000 payment, which was made shortly before Mr Trump's victory in the November 2016 presidential election.
Mr Trump had previously disputed whether he was aware of the payment by Mr Cohen and whether he reimbursed him.
In April, Mr Trump told reporters he did not know anything about the payment. His disclosure now suggests Mr Trump repaid Mr Cohen last year.
Mr Trump, his campaign and Mr Cohen have all denied any wrongdoing. The White House did not respond to requests for comment to clarify the reason for Mr Trump's payment to Mr Cohen.
Ethics disclosures are an annual requirement for senior federal officials and are overseen by the ethics office, a government office that provides oversight of an executive branch programme to prevent and resolve conflicts of interest.
David Apol, the acting director of the ethics office, said in a letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that the original payment made by Mr Cohen should have been disclosed in ethics documents that Mr Trump filed in June 2017. Mr Apol's letter was released with the Trump disclosures.
Representative Elijah Cummings, leading Democrat on the House of Representatives Oversight Committee, said in a statement he was pushing for the panel to investigate the payments.
"President Trump was required by law to report that he 'funnelled' money through Michael Cohen to reimburse a secret payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels, but he concealed these payments, and we still do not know why," Mr Cummings said.
CREW, a liberal-leaning watchdog group, filed a complaint with the ethics office that was referenced in Mr Apol's letter.
"The disclosure substantiates our CREW complaint that the failure to do so previously was a violation of law," CREW's board chairman Norman Eisen said. "That prior failure should be reviewed by the appropriate authorities."
The ethics disclosure said Mr Cohen sought reimbursement in 2017 for an expense he incurred in 2016.
"Mr Trump fully reimbursed Mr Cohen," the disclosure report said.