Stormy Daniels visits a local restaurant in downtown New Orleans, Wednesday, May 6, 2009. 
Bill Haber/AP Photo

Trump World’s payment to porn star comes into sharper focus

Updated

The Rachel Maddow Show, 1/18/18, 9:50 PM ET

Trump lawyer used shell company to pay porn star: WSJ

Michael Rothfeld, reporter for The Wall Street Journal, talks with Rachel Maddow about new reporting that Donald Trump lawyer Michael Cohen used a private company to pay $130,000 to porn star Stormy Daniels.
It’s been a week since the Wall Street Journal first reported on an unexpected controversy surrounding the president and a porn star. The article said that Donald Trump’s lawyer “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.”

The story was met with a series of denials about the alleged extra-marital relationship, though the relevant players didn’t deny the apparent six-figure payment to Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford.

Since then, there have been a series of revelations about the alleged affair, but I continue to think the focus should be on the money. Where’d the $130,000 come from? How was the payment made? Did it raise any legal concerns?

With these questions in mind, the Wall Street Journal moved the ball forward with a new article late yesterday, reporting that Trump’s attorney used a private Delaware company to pay Daniels in exchange for her pre-election silence.

The lawyer, Michael Cohen, established Essential Consultants LLC, on Oct. 17, 2016, just before the 2016 presidential election, corporate documents show. Mr. Cohen, who is based in New York, then used a bank account linked to the entity to send the payment to the client-trust account of a lawyer representing the woman, Stephanie Clifford, one of the people said.

Mr. Cohen’s decision to establish the company in Delaware offered him privacy and simplicity, hallmarks of a state that has attracted more than one million business entities. Unlike some states, Delaware doesn’t require companies to publicly disclose the names of their managers.

When “The Rachel Maddow Show” asked Cohen and the White House for comment, we didn’t hear back.

Nevertheless, we now know the bank account used to pay Trump’s alleged porn-star mistress, shortly before the 2016 election, though we don’t yet know who put the money into that bank account.

And in case this isn’t obvious, that’s a question that needs answering, among other reasons, because it may have come from a suspect source or been a legally dubious in-kind campaign contribution.

If you’re new to this story and want to catch up, check out our previous items from Jan. 12, Jan. 15, and Jan. 17.

Postscript: The transcript of Stormy Daniels’ interview with In Touch magazine, conducted several years ago before she received alleged hush-money, was published online this morning.

Donald Trump and Scandals

Trump World's payment to porn star comes into sharper focus

Updated