In his annual disclosure of personal finances, President Donald Trump revealed for the first time that he paid his personal lawyer Michael Cohen between $100,000 and $250,000 last year, as reimbursement for payment to a third-party. The disclosure was made as a footnote in a section on a section outlining the president’s liabilities. (You can read the report HERE.)
The footnote reads as follows:
In the interest of transparency, while not required to be disclosed as ‘reportable liabilities’ on Part 8, in 2016 expenses were incurred by one of Donald J. Trump’s attorneys, Michael Cohen. Mr. Cohen sought reimbursement of those expenses and Mr. Trump fully reimbursed Mr. Cohen in 2017. The category of the value would be $100,001 – $250,000 and the interest rate would be zero.
The disclosure caught the attention of David Apol, the acting head of the Office of Government Ethics (OGE), who sent a letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in case it is “relevant to any inquiry you may be pursuing.”
Today I certified President Trump’s financial disclosure report signed on May 15, 2018 (for calendar year 2017). OGE has concluded that, based on the information provided as a note to part 8, the payment made to Mr. Cohen is required to be reported as a liability. OGE has determined that the information provided in that note meets the disclosure requirements for a reportable liability under the Ethics in Government Act.
I am providing both reports to you because you may find the disclosure relevant to any inquiry you may be pursuing regarding the President’s prior report that was signed on June 14, 2017.
NEW: Ethics office sending letter to Rod Rosenstein stating that Michael Cohen's payment on behalf of Trump was a debt and may be relevant to "any inquiry" Rosenstein may be pursuing. pic.twitter.com/e22Jfuozic
— Ari Melber (@AriMelber) May 16, 2018
The complete letter is below:
The news prompted Walter Schaub, the former OGE director, to weigh in.
“This is tantamount to a criminal referral,” he wrote on Twitter. “OGE has effectively reported the president to DOJ for potentially committing a crime.”
This is tantamount to a criminal referral. OGE has effectively reported the president to DOJ for potentially committing a crime. Dave Apol comes through in the end!! https://t.co/8LhDQZS8pF
— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) May 16, 2018
Several prominent personalities, including journalists, analysts, and public officials, concurred.
“Let’s be clear what this is: the Trump-appointed acting head of the Office of Government Ethics just wrote DOJ to flag that Trump may have committed a crime by not disclosing his Stormy payment to Cohen in last year’s financial disclosure,” wrote Eric Columbus, who previously worked under the Obama administration.
Let’s be clear what this is: the Trump-appointed acting head of the Office of Government Ethics just wrote DOJ to flag that Trump may have committed a crime by not disclosing his Stormy payment to Cohen in last year’s financial disclosure. https://t.co/uIre10zsy1
— Eric Columbus (@EricColumbus) May 16, 2018
MSNBC Justice and Security Analyst Matthew Miller and Judd Legum, the editor of Think Progress, followed suit.
Wow, this is essentially a criminal referral to DOJ for Trump making a false statement in his previous financial disclosure. https://t.co/4yhHnqcNmf
— Matthew Miller (@matthewamiller) May 16, 2018
UPDATE: Office of Government Ethics refers Trump's June 2017 financial disclosure filing to Department of Justice for possible criminal violation.
The OGE has concluded that the omission of the debt to Cohen in that report was improper. https://t.co/kQf2Jab6uI
— Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) May 16, 2018
The disclosure does not specify the nature of the payment made to Cohen, and it was not listed on Trump’s 2017 report, although the disclosure should include current liabilities of $10,000 or more. Rudy Giuliani, another of the president’s attornies, recently told The Washington Post that the president owed Cohen $250,000.