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Did Trump's Lawyer Pay Stormy Daniels Out of His Own Pocket?

A minor point, but it's not what his statement says.

This isn't the biggest story in the world, but I was interested in the statement by Trump's personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, about the payments made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels. A month ago, the Wall Street Journal broke the story that began:

A lawyer for President Donald Trump arranged a $130,000 payment to a former adult-film star a month before the 2016 election as part of an agreement that precluded her from publicly discussing an alleged sexual encounter with Mr. Trump, according to people familiar with the matter.

Yesterday Cohen made this statement admitting the bulk of the story. "In a private transaction in 2016," Cohen said, "I used my own personal funds to facilitate a payment of $130,000 to [Daniels]. Neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with [Daniels], and neither reimbursed me for the payment, either directly or indirectly."

The press is widely reporting, apparently based on this statement, that Cohen said he paid the $130,000 to Daniels out of his own pocket. The phrase "out of his own pocket" seems to be used by pretty much every story. "Trump's Longtime Lawyer Says He Paid Stormy Daniels Out of His Own Pocket," the New York Times headline says. And the Fox News headline is similar: "Michael Cohen, Trump's lawyer, says he paid Stormy Daniels $130,000 out of own pocket."

Now, clearly the most important part of the story is verification from the President's own personal lawyer that, in 2016, he was himself involved in paying $130,000 to a porn star who had claimed to have had an affair with the President. I'm old enough to remember when something like that would have been a major Presidential scandal. That seems like a long time ago.

But, with my apologies, let me focus on one really small part of the story: Does Cohen actually say he paid the $130,000 out of his own pocket? If Cohen's statement above is the only statement he has made, which as far as I can tell is the case, he never actually says that. All Cohen says is that he used his personal funds to "facilitate a payment of $130,000."

To "facilitate", the dictionary tells us, means to assist with or to make something easier. Given that, I would think that the most literal reading of Cohen's statement is just that he used his own funds to arrange the payment. He's not making any statement about whose $130,000 was paid. For example, if it took Cohen a few hundred dollars to set up an entity to pay Daniels, and to wire someone else's $130,000 to her, then he would have been using his own personal funds to faciltate that payment. Sending on the money would be a transaction between two parties, Daniels and the entity Cohen set up, and there would have been no need to reimburse Cohen $130,000 because it wasn't Cohen's money that was sent.

Of course, there are other ways to read Cohen's statement. There are enough ambiguities in it to drive a truck through. Maybe Trump just wrote a personal check to Cohen. Cohen was reimbursed, but not from Trump's "organization" or "campaign." At this point, we don't know. And of course we also don't know if what Cohen is now saying is literally true. Cohen's "reputation for having a character for truthfulness," to use an evidence law phrase, is lousy. But I just thought it worth pointing out that Cohen doesn't even claim that he paid the $130,000 out of his own pocket, which is what the press seems to be reporting.

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  • Brett Bellmore||

    I think it's worth pointing out that Daniels denies that the affair she was supposedly paid to be quiet about actually happened. Interesting. She stays bought? Or is there something more complicated behind that? Technically, she denies having sex with Trump, which I suppose could be parsed as closely as you parsed Cohen's statement.

    Anyway, not terribly analogous to the Lewinsky affair, unless maybe Daniels was an employee of Trump's at the time, and the payoff was in the context of obstructing justice in a sexual harassment lawsuit. Democrats expended a great effort to make the the scandal about the actual affair, rather than all the crimes committed in the effort to cover it up.

  • David Nieporent||

    Not sure how Lewinsky would have gotten into this discussion, as the fact pattern is not remotely the same, as you're forced to admit. If you were going to try to distract with Democratic red herrings -- and of course you were -- you should have brought up the John Edwards affair with Rielle Hunter, which has almost identical facts.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    She got into the discussion thusly: "I'm old enough to remember when something like that would have been a major Presidential scandal. That seems like a long time ago."

    So, perhaps you should direct the complaint to Orin? We seem agreed that the fact pattern is different.

  • TwelveInchPianist||

    " as you're forced to admit."

    I see David N. has taken up the modern definition of "forced".

  • Kazinski||

    Could be. But not if it was Trump's money or his Lawyer's or another family member. Edward's got in trouble because it was a major campaign donor that was making the payoffs to keep his campaign viable. If the payoffs were totally insulated from his campaign via his personal lawyer, and there were no campaign assets involved then there is no election law violation.

  • Voize of Reazon||

    52 USC 30104 (a)6b imposes reporting requirements even on candidate's use of personal funds, so if Trump paid out of his own pocket and the expense was in furtherance of his campaign he would be required to report to the FEC and to the other candidates and potentially subject to criminal penalties under section 30109.

  • Voize of Reazon||

    "... and potentially subject to criminal penalties under section 30109" if he failed to do so.

    Stupid missing edit function!

  • Sarcastr0||

    Technically, she denies...

    So even Brett doesn't believe it.
    LOL

  • Brett Bellmore||

    No, I'm just curious what's being hushed up, if it's not sex. Of course, maybe we're looking at a Clintonian definition of "sex", but maybe it's something else.

  • Sarcastr0||

    I'm just observing that 'technically...' is not generally one of those adjectives that precedes a statement whose truth you have much faith in.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    I don't have much faith in a denial of an "affair" that's actually just a denial of "sex", that's true. Maybe they had a Platonic relationship...

  • mad_kalak||

    But, but, but.... I thought the woman was supposed to be automatically believed in these cases, and the male had to disprove his guilt to be found innocent. Here we have a case where the woman is saying it didn't happen, and Brett the conservative is the one not ASSUMING she's lying because she is a woman of dubious morals (being a porn actress). Ye gads, Sarcast0 and Orin are slut shaming by implication. Trump is by no means a moral exemplar, but I think some of those against him ideologically assume the woman is lying because they want the accusation of an affair to be true.

  • Sarcastr0||

    Your sorta hamfisted attempt at satire(?) aside, the admitted payoff plus sudden change in story combine to make the narrative that they banged pretty likely.
    Certainly well beyond the evidenceless partisan speculation you posit.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    I kinda assume he's a 70 year old gent married to a supermodel, so why would he? But then, I understand people can get pretty stupid when it comes to sex, so maybe he did.

    But, what WAS she being paid to be quiet about, if it wasn't sex? Or, not sex with Trump? Might actually be a more interesting story if she's telling the truth.

    In any event, there doesn't appear to have been a crime involved, unless Trump inexplicably went out of his way to finance the payment in an illegal manner, which he certainly has enough money to not need to do. So it's really between him and Melania, so far as I'm concerned.

  • Nige||

    It's between Trump, Melania, Storm Daniels, her future publishers, the lawyer, and the smoking ruins of any pretense that the Republican party, and the Christian Evangelicals who support Trump, ever actually cared about such a thing as 'Family Values.'

  • David Nieporent||

    Supermodel? Is the guy who got a kitten out of a tree the other day a superhero?

  • mad_kalak||

    Subtlety is overrated, except in poetry and love. Still, it was fun to point out the irony, if nothing else. But, yea, your point is very well taken.

  • Sarcastr0||

    Fair, and having gotten into an argument on a different forum about whether pussy hats are transphobic, I cannot argue with your satire.

  • mad_kalak||

    Sh*t, now that's funny.

  • aluchko||

    Her "denials" practically come with a wink, pretty much what you would expect if you took $130k by agreeing to deny the affair but now realized a denial was pointless since everybody knows (and you enjoy the publicity anyway).

    But I'm curious about Cohen, the actual topic of the article. Do you really believe that Cohen paid $130k out of his own pocket without being reimbursed (as he clearly implied)? I'm extremely skeptical.

    Oh, and I agree it's not terribly analogous to the Lewinsky affair.

  • Dr. Benway||

    "I think it's worth pointing out that Daniels denies that the affair she was supposedly paid to be quiet about..."

    I'm not sure why that's worth pointing out. She was paid $130k. Is there some other reason why Trump's personal lawyer would be paying a porn star $130k?

  • Brett Bellmore||

    Depends on Trump's personal lawyer's private life, I suppose.

  • Dr. Benway||

    Dear Mr. Bellmore,

    Can I interest you in a real estate opportunity in central Florida?

    Dr. Benway, Esq.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    What, you think Stormy is picky about where she gets $130K from, she'd turn down a lawyer?

  • PoxOnBothYourHouses||

    Dr. Benway: "She was paid $130k. Is there some other reason why Trump's personal lawyer would be paying a porn star $130k?"

    Personal services. Billable hourly.

  • NToJ||

    "I think it's worth pointing out that Daniels denies that the affair she was supposedly paid to be quiet about actually happened."

    That's... less than clear. The letter denying the affair also denies hush money, although Cohen has confirmed that she was, in fact, paid (maybe not hush money?).

  • Dr. Benway||

    LOL from the AP:

    Stormy Daniels, the porn star whom President Donald Trump's personal attorney acknowledges paying $130,000 just before Election Day, believes she is now free to discuss her alleged sexual encounter with Trump.

    A manager for the adult film actress told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Daniels believes Trump's lawyer invalidated a non-disclosure agreement by publicly discussing the payment.

    Gina Rodriguez says the actress, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, will discuss her alleged 20006 extramarital affair with Trump.

  • Orin Kerr||

    Brett, I greatly appreciate that you are always on a side -- and that unlike some squishes, you never waver.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    Well, thanks. Even if it's a bit sarcastic. It's important to know what you believe, and if you understand why you believe it, why should you waver?

    But I was serious about pointing out that the huge (Sorry, Yuge! fuss about the Lewinsky affair was the crimes committed to cover it up, not the affair itself. For all that the Democratic party line was that Clinton was impeached over sex, it was really the crimes that moved Republicans from moral condemnation to real outrage. Democrats are desperate to write those crimes out of history, aren't they?

    I myself said at the time that violating the marital oath was a serious thing when you're evaluating somebody who has to take an oath to take office; If Clinton didn't feel bound by the one, why would you expect him to feel bound by the other? And I think the reasoning applies to Trump, too. Though one must keep in mind the possibility that somebody has reformed, were Trump demonstrated to be violating his marital oath while in office, I'd doubt he felt constrained by the Presidential oath of office. I already doubt that, of course, more a matter of the doubt gaining confirmation.

    But one still has to distinguish between moral wrongs and crimes.

    As for Daniels, her statement was interestingly specific, as was Cohen's. So, what was she paid hush money about, if not sex? Not at all curious?

  • Sarcastr0||

    Luckily here we have not just the sex but a payoff.
    A payoff using money of questionable provenance.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    Well, we've got the payoff, but if Daniels is to be believed, not the sex.

    And I don't think the provenance of the money is "questionable" save in the sense that people could ask where it came from. It's not like Trump would have to mug somebody to produce $130K.

  • Sarcastr0||

    A payoff, but if we believe...

    ...do you understand how payoffs work?
    ============
    There is a nontrivial chance the payoff came from campaign funds.

  • TwelveInchPianist||

    A nontrivial chance? Holy crap.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    Oh, yeah, a non-trivial chance. Because it's not like a billionaire would be able to find $130K without breaking the law by using campaign funds, is there? No billionaire would have a private slush fund for "questionable" payments, he'd use funds that by law have to be publicly accounted for.

    Because he's an idiot, so he has to do things the incriminating way.

  • Sarcastr0||

    He could.

    It's not at all clear he bothered.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    I assume Trump has some substantial accounts dedicated to making deniable expenditures that can't be traced back to him, the billionaire's equivalent of a disposable credit card bought with cash.

    I mean, if I were a billionaire, I'd have such accounts. Wouldn't you?

  • Sarcastr0||

    Acknowledging that we are now deeply in speculation-land, I would not have an account, I'd have a person with ready funds of his own on retainer.

    The thing is, we thusfar don't see a lot of evidence of Trump either as President or as businessman taking much of a personal effort to either comply or even hide his lack of compliance with laws, regs, or norms.

    Even if caught red-handed, it wouldn't matter. This is a smaller scandal than ignoring-wifebeaters-gate, but I do like it's drama.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    Not a lot of evidence, aside from his never having been charged, let alone convicted, of any crime. Aside from the total lack of any evidence there isn't a unicorn hiding behind that tree, there's not a lot of evidence there isn't, either.

  • Sarcastr0||

    It's almost as though rich people who act like they're above the law...are effectively largely above the law!

  • Dr. Benway||

    "Because he's an idiot"

    Not just any idiot -- an extremely greedy, morally bankrupt idiot.

  • jjrzw72||

    If the money came from Trump, and it's purpose was affect the outcome of the election, then it was an unreported campaign contribution and an unreported campaign expenditure.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    Personally, I'm not a big fan of campaign finance law. And one of the reasons is that it's so easy to run afoul of it doing innocent things like paying hush money.

    Well, kinda, sorta innocent, anyway.

  • Nige||

    Isn't this the guy who spent charity money on self-portraits? Given the lack of any will or impulse to hold him to account for funds that need to be accounted for, why would that bother him in the slightest? If he's done it, it won't be because he's an idiot, it's because other idiots keep letting him or helping him get away with that sort of thing.

  • PoxOnBothYourHouses||

    Brett Bellmore: "Because he's an idiot, so he has to do things the incriminating way."

    The entire Trump administration, including those who were there only briefly, have a record of responding in incriminating ways to things that are likely not illegal.

    I don't know what odds I'd have to be given to bet $100 that there /was/ sex.

  • PoxOnBothYourHouses||

    I'd be willing to consider a scenario where he tried, but couldn't. Therefore he wants to hush up the whole mcgillicuddy, to: (1) keep the attempt from this wife and (2) hide his identity as the nonentity behind the curtain from everyone else.

  • Sam Gompers||

    I thought the Conspiracy moved to Reason not Buzzfeed.

  • Sarcastr0||

    Sorry 'bout your safe space.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    If authoritarian right-wingers can't expect the snowflake-protecting climate they prefer at a libertarian website, where is the hope for our world?

  • mad_kalak||

    It was generally safe from gawker level clickbaitish blog posts, that no matter the erudite air that Orin' legal parsing gives it, will still be a gawker level claickbaitish blog posts about a porn actress, hush money, and a president.

  • Dr. Benway||

    Is it not extremely important to know whether the President of the United States is so easily and readily blackmailed?

  • mad_kalak||

    That's a good point I hadn't really thought off. It's always the cover up, isn't it?

  • AJ_Liberty||

    I think this is just another example of how team Trump is helping to stimulate the economy. Perhaps these were matching funds to assist Ms. Daniels in making some badly needed infrastructure improvements. Who knows?
    As to the actual source of funds, maybe this all hinges on the critical distinction between "is this Trump's money" or "was this Trump's money"...we have to get the correct tense before proceeding to impeachment...

  • Brett Bellmore||

    I'm not sure there's an impeachable offense here. Is paying a porn star hush money a "high crime" or "misdemeanor"? Particularly if it happened before you were President?

    Still, they say an impeachable offense is anything 50% +1 of the House thinks is impeachable, so I suppose after the election, if the Democrats take the House, Trump is going to be impeached for SOMETHING.

    Might as well be this.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    I hope no Democrat votes to impeach Pres. Trump (on the current record), let alone votes to convict in the Senate, at least not without a comprehensive arrangement that involves Vice Pres. Pence's resignation and replacement by a consensus successor.

    Republicans broke this. They would require help to fix it. I believe they are destined to sustain electoral damage for decades, because the young people watching the Republican Party be branded with bigotry, backwardness, corruption, and ineptitude will be voting for a half-century, and because the American electorate becomes less rural, less backward, less intolerant, less religious, and less white just about each day as cranky old conservatives die off and are replaced by better Americans. If Republicans want help in correcting the situation, they should provide suitable compensation to those on whose assistance they must rely.

    Let the Trump Show run for the entire four-year season, unless the president quits in disgrace sooner.

  • mad_kalak||

    Don't ever change, it would ruin your charm.

  • Dilan Esper||

    "I hope no Democrat votes to impeach Pres. Trump (on the current record), let alone votes to convict in the Senate, at least not without a comprehensive arrangement that involves Vice Pres. Pence's resignation and replacement by a consensus successor."

    I am on your side politically but I think this is 100 percent wrong.

    The fact that the successor is the VP is one of the best things about impeachment, because it disincentivizes political impeachments. An impeachment is only going to occur if Trump did something that the Democrats as a party see as so horrible, so criminal, that it's worth putting Pence in. The Republicans knew that if they impeached Clinton, they would be getting Gore (and probably helping his chances in 2000).

  • santamonica811||

    Dilan,
    I assume that you mean, "The Republicans knew that if they *convicted* [in the Senate] Clinton, they would be getting Gore." The House actually did impeach. But the Senate then did not vote to convict. Certainly--at least in part--for the reason you gave.

  • gormadoc||

    She already left the porn industry. She doesn't need "infrastructure" improvements anymore.

  • mad_kalak||

    As women age out of porn, they all need infrastructure improvements!

  • santamonica811||

    Going from a C cup to a D should certainly qualify as 'infrastructure.' Or, going in reverse, when one is past your, um, 'acting' career.

  • MightyMouse||

    Surprised to find Stormy is not new to politics. Maybe she'll challenge Trump in the primary. That would make for an interesting debate.

    http://www.xbiz.com/news/10426.....-us-senate

  • OtisAH||

    I just want to know how they arrived at $130,000?

  • AJ_Liberty||

    And was it money well spent to keep her mouth open or closed?

  • santamonica811||

    Ouch!

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    It seems likely Trump and Cohen have a standard compensation/payoff schedule.

  • ||

    What can one say about a person who takes a $130,000 payment AND affirms that she never had sex with Donald Trump?

    There are many possible interpretations. Without further information, we cannot pick the right one.

  • OtisAH||

    I'm wondering if the answer to your question will reveal anything about what can be said be said about taking her post-payment denial to heart while tossing down the memory hole her several pre-payment statements to the contrary?

  • NToJ||

    It's not clear she affirmed that she never had sex with Donald Trump. Anyway, isn't the obvious explanation that the denial is what the $130K purchased?

  • bernard11||

    Obvious to all but the Trump fanatics.

  • Purple Martin||

    Just one more example of how, sometimes, attorneys can tend to be just a little cute for their own good. It may or may not be telling that Cohen did not make the following statement, which may or may not be true:

    "I paid Stormy Daniels $130,000 of my own money.
    No entity, organization or person reimbursed me for this."

    Now that I think about it, I'll change "...may or may not be true," to "...is extremely unlikely to be true."

  • DrYattz||

    Something else I've been wondering. The non-disclosure agreement was apparently with "Stormy Daniels." But shouldn't it have been with (and signed by) Stephanie Clifford, the pornstar's real name?

    Maybe Trump boinked Ms. Clifford, not Ms. "Daniels."

  • Brett Bellmore||

    Generally such a professional name would be a legal alias, and thus contracts using the name would be just as binding as with the person's private name.

  • arch1||

    Yes. If it *were* true, Cohen would almost certainly have made this extremely clear (at least, I can't think why he wouldn't; can anyone else?)

  • Bob from Ohio||

    "I'm old enough to remember when something like that would have been a major Presidential scandal."

    The Democratic [happy everyone?] Party and the media taught us that even presidential extramarital sex in the Oval Office is irrelevant and no big deal. No surprise that a businessman/TV host having an affair a decade ago is ignored.

    As everyone likes to point out nowadays, once norms are violated, they are gone forever.

  • Sarcastr0||

    Except Dems seem to be interested in the payoff. Dems have their share of inconsistencies over the years, but I don't see it here.

    Republicans are the one turning on a moral dime here. Though lately from deficits to Presidential demeanor, that's not an uncommon sight.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    Dems are interested in the payoff because, like Sarcastro, they're hoping like heck Trump was stupid enough to get the money from an illegal source, despite his having an almost embarrassing excess of legal sources available to him.

    It's a little of a moral dime for Republicans, but exaggerated, because the Lewinski case was about obstruction of justice as far as Republicans were concerned, not sex. That it was just about sex was the Democratic defense of Clinton, not the Republican attack.

  • Sarcastr0||

    No doubt they're hoping. I'm wondering, but have no illusions it would matter even if so.

    But let us also note that a payoff to keep something from the voters during an election has a certain weight that simply not telling a prosecutor about your beej does not.

  • Voize of Reazon||

    In the end the Lewinsky case was about perjuries, but at least initially also had the potential to involve sexual exploitation as Clinton was in a position of authority over her. Fortunately we were spared that sort of Weinstein foreshadowing but of course there is not even a hint of that in the Stormy story.

  • Bob from Ohio||

    "Republicans are the one turning on a moral dime here."

    Perhaps, we were taught that only backing gentlemen was a sucker bet. Policy, not personal behavior, is what is important.

  • Sarcastr0||

    Well, glad you admit it, I suppose.

    I'd be more excited about your changing your principals if it wasn't so blatantly outcome-oriented.

  • Nige||

    Donald Trump seems like the sort of old-school aristocratic gentlemen whose behaviour is tolerated and praised because of money and power and pedigree, a tradition you're happy to carry on. Everybody fully expects personal behaviour to become a towering Republican principle once again as soon as Trump is in the rear-view mirror.

  • paul_lukasiak||

    The money did not come out of "Cohen's own pocket" -- it that was the case, Cohen would have cut a check on his own bank account. Instead, Cohen set up a shell company for the specific purpose of making this payment.

    And excellent catch on the use of the word "facilitate" -- a weasel word if ever there was one.

    At what point does Cohen's actions cross the line into bribery (or extortion?)

    Is there any way to get Stormy Daniels under oath? Given what we know about Cohen, the odds that Cohen would engage in threats against Daniels are exceedingly high. And while Cohen may be able to get away with threatening lawsuits and such while acting as Trump's lawyer, if he did so the "payment was unconnected to Trump" claim flies out the window...

  • DrYattz||

    Something else I've been wondering. The non-disclosure agreement was apparently with "Stormy Daniels." But shouldn't it have been with (and signed by) Stephanie Clifford, the pornstar's real name?

    Maybe Trump boinked Ms. Clifford, not Ms. "Daniels."

  • Robert E||

    "and neither reimbursed me for the payment, either directly or indirectly."

    Even this part of the statement isn't believable since he would usually be paid billable hours (or a salary if any lawyer ever accepts salary) to set up such an account, and it's thus impossible to delink the money he paid from the money he received in payment.

    Lawyers need to be held accountable for weasel-wording. Lies are still lies when meant to deceive.

  • M.L.||

    Uhh . . . without knowing much about this story, and allowing the worst assumptions about Trump . . .

    I do believe that it would be a Major Presidential Scandal today if Trump fooled around with a young WH intern in the oval office. I mean, really?!?!?! Has everyone gone completely f***ing nuts or is it just me????

  • Sarcastr0||

    So you continue to have your eyes fixed entirely on them evil Democrats as you permit Trump everything.

  • M.L.||

    No, I was just floored by the suggestion that a Lewinsky repeat would not be a major Presidential scandal today.

    But if you want to talk about my personal animuses, I've noticed I have a lot more against certain Republicans than any Democrat.

  • Sarcastr0||

    Between the kinky Forbes-spanking porn star sex, and the wife beating, I'm not at all sure it'd be a scandal today. Didja hear that alt-right guy who endorsed underage gay sex is back?
    ====================
    As a partisan on the leftish side, I also find I hate no one so much as an apostate from my own side. Doesn't make me less of a partisan.

  • Sarcastr0||

    Alleged kinky Forbes-spanking porn star sex.

  • Nige||

    At this point it would just be one more Major Presidential Scandal This Week.

  • paul_lukasiak||

    The money did not come out of "Cohen's own pocket" -- it that was the case, Cohen would have cut a check on his own bank account. Instead, Cohen set up a shell company for the specific purpose of making this payment.

    And excellent catch on the use of the word "facilitate" -- a weasel word if ever there was one.

    At what point does Cohen's actions cross the line into bribery (or extortion?)

    Is there any way to get Stormy Daniels under oath? Given what we know about Cohen, the odds that Cohen would engage in threats against Daniels are exceedingly high. And while Cohen may be able to get away with threatening lawsuits and such while acting as Trump's lawyer, if he did so the "payment was unconnected to Trump" claim flies out the window...

  • Brett Bellmore||

    Typically you need a civil suit or criminal investigation to get somebody under oath. Both would appear to be absent here.

  • Dr. Benway||

    I've heard there some guy named "Mueller" who might be running some kind of investigation.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    Even he would be hard put to justify putting Stormy under oath, absent some independent evidence of a crime; Even if the funds were come by illegitimately, all she had was a transaction with the lawyer.

  • Dr. Benway||

    Do you think maybe this blackmailing opportunity might have been of some interest to any other parties adverse to the U.S. govt -- say the Russians? Do you think maybe, just maybe, this presents a security risk of some sort? Just curious.

  • Dr. Benway||

    Oh I see, you're still operating under the premise that all this was nothing more than "a transaction with the lawyer." LOL.

    I suppose the fact that Trump personally had a long history of involvement with this particular porn star, predating the $130k payoff by ten years or so, was a completely coincidence. You've seen the photos of them together with their arms around each other, right?

    Serious question: Who do you think you're kidding? That's not a rhetorical question; I'm really wondering if you sincerely believe anyone buys your premise.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    No, I'm operating under the premise that she couldn't personally testify as to the original source of the funds, having been paid through a cut-out. Certainly, she couldn't testify as to whether the funds came from this account or that.

  • Dr. Benway||

    "she couldn't personally testify as to the original source of the funds, having been paid through a cut-out."

    I hope you're not a prosecutor.

    The porn star could testify, "I told Trump I wanted $130k or else I'd tell the media about our sex, how bad he was at it, and how tiny his penis is. I can describe it in detail. The next day, his lawyer gave me $130k."

    On this basis, do you think that maybe a factfinder could reasonably infer that Trump was the source of the $130k, and that he was easily blackmailed? And if that were in fact true, wouldn't that make him a pretty ginormous security risk?

    Come on... Why do you persist in denying the obvious? Who do you think you're fooling?

  • gormadoc||

    I don't really care about the sex lives of our elected officials, absent criminal or moral transgressions. I don't care that Clinton cheated or that Trump cheated; for all I know, they have open marriages or their wives permit this behavior. Hillary definitely knew and Melania probably did as well.

    In my mind, the problem with Clinton was that it was with someone he had improper amounts of power over. Probably shouldn't be impeachable, but it is distasteful.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    That, and that he committed criminal acts in order to cover it up. Primarily that latter.

  • Dr. Benway||

    Do you care about why the President of the United States can be so readily blackmailed to the tune of $130k by a porn star? Do you think that might present some kind of security risk, if you think about it for, say, five or ten seconds?

  • Kazinski||

    Did anyone vote for Trump because they thought he was a moral paragon? Especially after the Hollywood Access tape that didn't change anyone's mind?

    The truth is voters care about morals in politicians when they run on morals.

    Trump ran on being a winner, winners screw porn stars, or at least the winners that want to screw porn stars do. From day one Trump's persona is a sleazy businessman that knows how to win.

    Didn't Trump say in the campaign he knows most politicians are crooked because he's been paying them off for years?

  • Dr. Benway||

    It's true -- by supporting Trump, Republicans have completely abandoned the longtime pretense that they care about morality, integrity, honesty, or anything remotely resembling those characteristics. The Christian right in particular has laid bare their hypocrisy and phony, self-righteous preaching.

  • AJ_Liberty||

    It is surprising how many "conservatives" are making excuses or minimizing conduct that they would otherwise be wringing their hands over. Certainly, conservatives and Trump was a marriage of convenience because of a fear about the greater evil that was Hillary. Now, a lot of those supporters are invested....meaning...this is now about their personal judgment....so we see the focus on policy, cabinet picks, and Gorsuch rather than tweets, messaging, and rants about the media or FBI. I didn't vote for Trump....and probably wouldn't in 2020.....because just like 2016....I don't want to spend four years of my life excusing and minimizing conduct that is sketchy....I want to be proud of my President. I will applaud when the administration does something I favor...but will always be skeptical about whether Trump is a plus or a minus in it happening. Still, I also want to caution those at the other extreme...we want to make sure that we don't excuse ethical lapses by the media or FBI either (like, I'm still a bit perplexed why the UN ambassador was involved in requesting foreign intelligence unmaskings at all...am I alone?). What I also see on news outlets is a whole lot of hyperbole, speculation, and innuendo...that makes watching it nearly impossible. Trump has certainly changed Presidential norms in a negative manner...but other norms are changing as well....and we shouldn't lose track of that in our partisan zeal.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    "....so we see the focus on policy, cabinet picks, and Gorsuch rather than tweets, messaging, and rants about the media or FBI."

    It's not that I don't, all things being equal, care about tweets, messaging, and rants. It's just that all things aren't equal; I care a lot MORE about policy, cabinet picks, and Gorsuch.

    They've got a lot more impact on my life.

    But if somebody could produce a President who was identical to Trump on a policy basis, or better, had some tweaks when it came to Sessions' drug war mania and asset forfeiture, and yet was rhetorically more in line with Reagan, I'd be utterly delighted.

    My worry, of course, is that the tweets, messaging, and rants, are in some way connected to the political and policy successes, that a policy identical but more polite candidate would have simply been beaten, and never gotten the chance to implement the policy.

    I mean, I didn't like some of Romney's policies, but he was a very decent, polite man. And he got steamrollered. He just didn't know how to respond to impolite, or to biased media.

    At some point you've got to be able to fight dirty if you're in a bar fight rather than an exhibition match.

  • Nige||

    Certainly it seems like a major cultural and societal shift that the Republican vision of winning now involves cheating on one's spouse with a porn star and paying her hush money to keep it quiet, rather than enjoying a happy and secure christian marriage. Nobody who's paid attention to right wing misogyny should be surprised, except by the rapidity with which it's been flopped out into the light for everyone to see.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    Well, when it's Pence's turn to run for President, (I'm giving it 50-50 that Trump doesn't run in 2020.) you'll get to test that theory.

    I'm running with the theory that it's not a positive, but Republicans got tired enough of losing to not care too much about it in a winner.

  • Sarcastr0||

    That's some interesting analysis.

    Especially since Republicans win plenty, so one wonders why they feel like losers.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    They feel like losers because they are losers.

    Look at the course of American progress throughout our lifetimes. That progress has occurred at the expense of conservative aspirations and efforts. Consider the prospects for America returning to conservative preferences on religion in schools, abortion, treatment of gays, the drug war, treatment of women, voter suppression, etc. etc. etc. They're betting on backwardness, religion, and intolerance in a country going in the other direction. They abandoned their pre-'80s association with competence, limited government, progress, education, tolerance, and morality. They have been, will continue to be, and deserve to be losers.

  • Nige||

    No. This is what you looks like and act like when you win. Anything else was always a posture. You will care about all those things again, at a high pitch, as Dems start winning again. The eruptions and ejaculations from you lot if Obama had been caught paying off a porn star would have been enough to take the roof off. We don't have to imagine this because we saw how you reacted to fist-bumps.

  • NYLawyer||

    The comparison to Lewinsky is bizarre and calls for some explanation by Prof Kerr. There were many comparable allegations about Clinton's past affairs at the time of his first campaign (a couple of former beauty contestants, among others) and it did not make much difference. Allegations of then-current affair (Gennifer Flowers) made some tabloid headlines. Some years later, Lewinsky was a White House intern and the revelation of that relationship created a sensation. The Stormy Daniels allegation about a relationship from some years ago seems much more like the beauty queen episodes than like Lewinsky.

  • gretab||

    The reason people dont believe Stormy's denial now isnt because of her profession. It is because she gave interviews in 2011 giving details of the affair, details that were confirmed at the time by her friends.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    Right, which is why talk about Trump being subject to blackmail over this is absurd.

  • OtisAH||

    Totally absurd. Unlike, I note, your attempts to suggest it was actually Cohen who had the affair with her. That's perfectly plausible.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    I was just responding to the following question: "Is there some other reason why Trump's personal lawyer would be paying a porn star $130k?"

    Obviously, I don't think he had the affair with her, but if, hypothetically, he had, it would have been a reason.

    I'm getting the impression a lot of people don't notice when I'm simply digressing into a discussion of counter-factual hypotheticals.

  • Dr. Benway||

    "it would have been a reason."

    It is obviously not a plausible reason. Another counter-factual hypothetical is that UFOs retained Cohen to give $130k to a porn start.

    If Trump had nothing whatsoever to do with the payment, why didn't Cohen simply say so? His lawyerly phrasing is obviously designed to obfuscate the truth. If Trump didn't pay Cohen the $130k, and didn't pay Daniels the $130k, Cohen would've said so.

  • OtisAH||

    Well, my read of the entire comment section is you've been setting up, or working up to, "Cohen did it" from the start.

  • OtisAH||

    As for your counter-factuals, they only ever bend to the one direction. So, only folks unfamiliar with your body of work might consider the possibility. It's not as if you've ever wondered if the blue dress might've been mussed by someone other than Bill, or asked if it was possible that the attack in Benghazi might've just been a confluence of shitty events.

  • Dr. Benway||

    "which is why talk about Trump being subject to blackmail over this is absurd."

    So Trump funneled $130k to a porn star out of the goodness of his heart?

    Blackmail is exactly what we're talking about.

  • Nige||

    'I assume Trump has some substantial accounts dedicated to making deniable expenditures that can't be traced back to him, the billionaire's equivalent of a disposable credit card bought with cash.'

    I mean come on. That's a rainy-day pay-off-the-odd-blackmailer fund.

  • OtisAH||

    Well isn't this something?

    [Dang, link is "too long a word". Anyway, the AP article is titled "Porn Star Who Alleged Trump Affair: I can now tell my story"]

    "Stormy Daniels, the pornography star whom President Donald Trump's personal attorney acknowledged paying $130,000 just before Election Day, believes she is now free to discuss her alleged sexual encounter with Trump, her manager told The Associated Press Wednesday...."

    (Interestingly, as the internet has been slowly waking up to the same distinction made by Prof. Kerr, The Media continues to report that Cohen paid the $130,000. Of course, he may have, but I agree with the Prof that that is not what Cohen said.)

  • santamonica811||

    Why Reason would have this idiotic "too long a word" rule in posting is beyond dumb. Only explanation is that they do not want posters to include links. But not all links (since relatively few will fall within the 50 character limit).

    It's really really strange.

    (A side note: Reason is the only website I've seen in several years where it's not possible--or, at least, easy--to locate all of your own comments. Anyway, I have not been able to do it for myself, which is annoying. And again, inexplicable in terms of designing a smoothly-functioning website that wants to encourage active participation.)

  • loki13||

    Now, of course, this circles around to the whole campaign issue. When this came up, it was because it was noted that the campaign paid $130,000.00 in "rent" to a Trump LLC right when the payoff occurred. That's why we have the statement now- because of the FEC issue.

    Could be a coincidence! Of course, that would mean that they paid a rent amount that was vastly different than any other rent amount, at a different time, for the same amount as the settlement. Which, hey could happen!

    After all, so long as there are people like Brett (I'll believe any alternative facts) and Bob (I don't care what the facts are, because I root for my team) out there, it doesn't really matter, does it? Who do you believe, Trump or your lying eyes?

    It would be funny, if it wasn't so sad.

  • bubiddy||

    If Michael D. Cohen gave this political contribution of $130,000 to the Trump campaign, was it recorded as a contribution and did it exceed collectively, with any other contributions he may have made, the limits of donations because if so, he has broken voting laws and needs to be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law and barred from practicing Law. Lets see what tomorrow brings? If he wants to be a sacrificial lamb, lets get the party started for him. Spread the word all over please

  • Krayt||

    So basically is it a carefully crafted way of saying, "I paid Western Union $30 of my own money to send her $130,000 of Trump's cash. Trump did not reimburse me for the $30." ?

  • NToJ||

    It's probably much simpler, i.e. Cohen paid the filing fee for Essential Consultants, LLC so that he could use that entity to take money from one Trump entity, and fund the settlement to Daniels. That's what was reported by the WSJ.

    Cohen's problem, which is likely going to get him fired, is that by telling the WSJ about that, has inadvertently given a porn actress with a lawyer an excuse to terminate the NDA portion of the settlement agreement, entitling her to publish a tell-all book for more thousands of dollars, while at the same time enjoying the $130K settlement.

    It's wonderful theater.

  • OtisAH||

    I'll always be amazed how easy it is to successfully grift and graft your way through life, so long as nobody is paying attention. You don't even need any particular talent, guile, or smarts to get away with it, either.

  • David Nieporent||

    So basically is it a carefully crafted way of saying, "I paid Western Union $30 of my own money to send her $130,000 of Trump's cash. Trump did not reimburse me for the $30." ?

    Yes, except he didn't say that Trump didn't reimburse him; he said that the Trump Organization and Trump campaign didn't.

  • Lfullam||

    Question from a non-lawyer: if Cohen had, in fact, paid Daniels "out of his own pocket," wouldn't that have been a major breach of legal ethics? Can't one be disbarred for doing such things? So yes, for the reasons you state and also for what seems to me to be a big risk for Cohen, he can't have done what he's been reported as doing....while heck, setting up a shell company could be just a cost of doing business...

  • captcrisis||

    "This isn't the biggest story in the world,"

    It sure as hell would have been, in the Clinton era (or any Democrat). But Republican Presidents are Teflon.

  • Intelligent Mr Toad||

    It depends on what the definition of "is" is.

    The President said to the Ms.:
    "Your mouth is a nice place for jiizz,
    And whether it's moral
    For you to give oral
    Depends on the meaning of 'is'".

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