Adult-movie star Stormy Daniels stops at Rooster's Country Bar in Delhi, La. on Friday, July 3, 2009.
Arely D. Castillo/AP Photo/The News-Star

Lawyer implicates Trump in porn-star payment, intensifying scandal

It’s been a couple of weeks since Michael Cohen, a personal attorney for Donald Trump, publicly conceded that he facilitated the $130,000 pre-election payment to porn star Stormy Daniels. The Wall Street Journal  reported yesterday, however, that Cohen has privately had several other notable things to say.

We talked yesterday about the fact that Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, was prepared to walk away from the deal just a few weeks before Election Day 2016 when she didn’t receive the payment Trump World promised. The WSJ shed some additional light on this detail:

Mr. Cohen said he missed two deadlines earlier that month [October 2016] to make the $130,000 payment to Ms. Clifford because he couldn’t reach Mr. Trump in the hectic final days of the presidential campaign, the person said.

Ms. Clifford was owed the money in return for signing an agreement that bars her from discussing an alleged sexual encounter with Mr. Trump in 2006, people familiar with the matter said.

After Mr. Trump’s victory, Mr. Cohen complained to friends that he had yet to be reimbursed for the payment to Ms. Clifford, the people said.

These are no small details. If the Journal’s article is correct, Cohen has directly implicated the president in a pre-election scheme to pay hush money to one of his alleged mistresses before she undermined his candidacy. In this version of events, Trump was not only aware of the payment, his lawyer expected to be repaid the $130,000.

And if that payment was illegal – for example, if it violated campaign-finance laws – then the president likely has some explaining to do.

But just as important, as Rachel noted on the show last night, is the follow-the-money aspect of this controversy, specifically as it relates to the relevant banks involved in the transaction.

The Wall Street Journal’s piece added that the bank Cohen used for the transaction, First Republic Bank, “flagged the transaction as suspicious and reported it to the Treasury Department.”

This dovetails in interesting ways with the latest reporting from the Washington Post, which noted that the bank that received the $130,000 wire transfer, City National Bank in Beverly Hills, also had concerns about the transaction. In fact, the bank asked Stormy Daniels’ lawyer about the source of the payment.

But pay attention to one specific detail about this: the City National Bank in Beverly Hills raised concerns in September 2017 – 11 months after Trump World made the payment.

It’s a curious timeline, isn’t it? Two weeks before the 2016 presidential election, an adult-film star who claims she had an extra-marital affair received $130,000 from Trump’s lawyer, apparently to buy her silence. Trump’s lawyer’s bank considered the payment suspicious and alerted federal authorities. Nearly a full year later, the porn star’s bank decided to start asking questions about the transaction.

So, what sparked the interest of the bank that received the money, 11 months after the money was wired? Why, exactly, did the California bank suddenly look backwards and ask for additional information about the suspicious payment?

One possibility – and admittedly, this is just a possibility – is that the bank received requests for information from law enforcement.

And if – if – this matter is being investigated, the controversy is about a whole lot more than Donald Trump’s messy personal life and the salacious details of a sex scandal.

Donald Trump and Scandals

Lawyer implicates Trump in porn-star payment, intensifying scandal