A year ago next month, President Donald Trump assured reporters on Air Force One that he never knew about the $135,000 in hush money paid to adult film actress Stormy Daniels in exchange for her silence ahead of the presidential election about their 2006 affair.
Reporter: "Mr. President, did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?"
President Trump: "No." pic.twitter.com/wHTR7o5lqB
— NBC News (@NBCNews) April 5, 2018
His answer that April is coming back to haunt him.
Trump is no longer denying he knew about a hush money payment his former attorney and fixer Michael Cohen made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels.
The president claimed the payment “was not a campaign contribution” and therefore does not constitute a campaign finance law violation.
It was not a campaign contribution, and there were no violations of the campaign finance laws by me. Fake News!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 7, 2019
Trump’s statement comes scarcely more than a week after Cohen’s testimony before the House Oversight and Reform Committee, in which he claimed Trump lied about the payment. He presented Congress with a copy of an August 2017 check for $35,000 that appears to be signed by Trump.
Cohen said the check was a partial reimbursement for the $130,000 he paid Daniels during the 2016 presidential campaign.
“I am providing a copy of a $35,000 check that President Trump personally signed from his personal bank account on August 1 of 2017 — when he was president of the United States — pursuant to the cover-up, which was the basis of my guilty plea, to reimburse me — the word used by Mr. Trump’s TV lawyer — for the illegal hush money I paid on his behalf,” Cohen said at the time. “This $35,000 check was one of 11 check installments that was paid throughout the year, while he was president.”
Trump was swiftly called out.
Sir, it’s difficult to believe anything you say about this matter given that you lied to the press on camera on Air Force One last year when you had said you no idea Michael Cohen made the $130,000 payment to @StormyDaniels. https://t.co/xXfoPITUJh
— Jennifer Taub (@jentaub) March 7, 2019
It meaning, the series of payoffs you made to cover up an affair, in violation of campaign finance law.
— ⓕ (@effdot) March 7, 2019
What wasn’t a campaign contribution? What wasn’t a violation of campaign finance law? So many crimes! It’s hard to keep up!
— Nancy Sobel (@nancysobel) March 7, 2019
If it was paid out in order to help the campaign, and it was, then it counts as a campaign contribution.
— RuPaul Ryan (@itsrupaulryan) March 7, 2019
So, Cohen pleaded guilty to a felony you directed he undertake that wasn't a crime?
Then there's money laundering, bank fraud, tax fraud, insurance fraud, non-profit charity fraud, wire fraud, mail fraud, and racketeering.
That's all coming down the pike for you and yours.
— J.R. Kiefer (@JRKiefer1) March 7, 2019
This isn’t the first time the president has claimed he knew about the payments, however.
In August 2018, immediately after Cohen pleaded guilty to eight criminal counts––five charges of felony tax evasion, two counts of campaign finance violations, and one count of bank fraud––Trump sat down for an interview with “Fox and Friends” and changed the tune he’d previously struck on Air Force One.
The president claimed that he knew about payments Cohen made to silence Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal but insisted that these payments did not come from campaign coffers and thus do not constitute a campaign finance violation.
“Later on I knew, later on,” Trump told Fox’s Ainsley Earhardt. “But you have to understand Ainsley, what he [Cohen] did, and they weren’t taken out of campaign finance. That’s a big thing, that’s a much bigger thing, “Did they come out of the campaign?” and they didn’t come out of the campaign, they came from me, and I tweeted about it. I don’t know if you know but I tweeted about the payments.”
— FOX & friends (@foxandfriends) August 22, 2018