Former president Donald Trump is now claiming a 2018 letter from Michael Cohen’s attorney that failed to prevent him from being charged over illegal campaign contributions to Mr Trump’s 2016 campaign has exonerated him from charges over the same illegal contributions now being considered by the Manhattan district attorney’s office.
In a post on his Truth Social website, Mr Trump published a February 2018 letter from Cohen’s then-attorney to the Federal Election Commission in which the lawyer said Cohen’s use of a $130,000 Home Equity Line of Credit to pay adult film star Stormy Daniels not to talk about a 2006 affair she had with Mr Trump was a “private transaction” made with Cohen’s “own money”.
“Neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms. Clifford, and neither reimbursed Mr. Cohen for the payment directly or indirectly,” said the attorney, Stephen Ryan, who represented Cohen at the time, in the letter to the FEC.
The letter was sent to the election oversight agency in response to a complaint alleging that Cohen’s payment to Ms Daniels was an illegal campaign contribution. Mr Ryan said the FEC lacked jurisdiction over the matter because the payment did “not constitute a campaign contribution or expenditure”.
In his Truth Social post, Mr Trump claimed the letter from Cohen’s ex-attorney was “totally exculpatory” and said it “must end” Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg’s probe into whether he falsified business records in violation of New York law when he and his company reimbursed Cohen for the payments to Ms Daniels.
But Mr Trump’s claims don’t align with reality.
Not only did the Department of Justice eventually indict Cohen for making an illegal campaign contribution and conspiracy to violate US campaign finance laws, but Cohen stated in open court, under oath, that he made the payment — which was reimbursed by Mr Trump — at Mr Trump’s direction and for his benefit.
Moreover, Cohen has made public evidence showing Mr Trump and his eponymous company reimbursed him for the payments, making it anything but a “private transaction”.