Trump faulted for failing to disclose payment to Stormy Daniels
Wed., May 16, 2018
U.S. President Donald Trumpâs financial disclosure, released Wednesday, revealed for the first time that he repaid a debt of more than $100,000 (U.S.) to his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, in 2017, raising questions about whether his sworn filing from a year ago improperly omitted the transaction.
The disclosure, released by the Office of Government Ethics, did not specify the purpose of the payment. However, Cohen has paid $130,000 to adult film actress Stephanie Clifford, who has said she had an affair with Trump. Cohen has said he made the payment shortly before the 2016 election as hush money for Clifford, who goes by the stage name Stormy Daniels.
Trump repaid Cohen between $100,001 and $250,000 in 2017, according to a footnote in the filing, but he did not include that information on last yearâs financial disclosure form. The Office of Government Ethics, in a letter to the Justice Department on Wednesday, said that the payment âis required to be reported as a liability.â
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Trumpâs formal acknowledgment of the repaid debt to Cohen draws new attention to whether the president erred in not reporting it on last yearâs disclosure form. The document released Wednesday said that Trump was reporting the repaid debt âin the interest of transparencyâ but his lawyers declared in the footnote that it was ânot required to be disclosed as reportable liabilities.â
The Office of Government Ethics disagreed. A letter accompanying the report sent to Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, from David J. Apol, acting director of the Office of Government Ethics, said the office had determined âthe payment made by Mr. Cohen is required to be reported as a liability.â
Apol also sent a copy of Trumpâs previous financial form to Rosenstein, noting in his letter that âyou may find the disclosure relevant to any inquiry you may be pursuing regarding the Presidentâs prior report that was sig ned on June 14, 2017.â
Critics of Trump seized on the repaid debt as proof that the president should have included it in last yearâs statement, which was filed voluntarily in June and signed by Trump under a line saying: âI certify that the statements I have made in this report are true, complete and correct to the best of my knowledge.â
Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said in a statement that the inclusion of the payment on this yearâs form âraises serious questions as to why it was not disclosed in last yearâs filing.â The group, known as CREW, had filed a complaint with the Justice Department and the ethics office asking for an investigation into whether the payment constituted a loan.Article Continued Below
Under federal law, an official who âknowingly and wilfully falsifies informationâ on a financial disclosure could face criminal charges.
Marilyn L. Glynn, who served as th e general counsel at the Office of Government Ethics from 1997 to 2008, said the letter to the Department of Justice is significant and unusual and that if Trump intentionally filed an inaccurate disclosure last year, he may have violated the law.
But she added that the matter is now unclear â" as the referral from the ethics office does not explicitly state that the agency itself has concluded there was a violation and it is hard to know exactly when Trump learned about the debt.
âWhat did he know and when did he know it,â she said. âAt the time he filed it last year, he may not have known this payment was made or that a payment was made at all.â
Trumpâs disclosure of the repaid debt to Cohen did little to clear up confusion about the total size of the reimbursements. Rudy Giuliani, Trumpâs attorney, said earlier this month that Cohen was paid $460,000 or $470,000 from Trump, which also included money for âincidental expensesâ that he had incurred on Trumpâs behalf.
Giuliani said Trump started paying Cohen back through a series of monthly installments of roughly $35,000 and that those payments began last year and may have carried into this year. The filing released Wednesday capped the amount Trump paid back to Cohen in 2017 at $250,000, leaving more than $200,000 of the amount Giuliani mentioned unaccounted for.
The disclosure did not preclude the possibility that federal investigators could determine the payment to Clifford violated campaign finance laws. If they conclude it was made with the intention of influencing the presidential campaign â" making it an effective political contribution â" it would violate election law, which caps individual donations to federal candidates at $5,400 per election cycle.
Candidates are allowed to spend as much as they want on their own campaigns. And, according to the filing, Trump paid Cohen back, making Cohenâs initial payment a loan. But campaign finance law tr eats personal loans as contributions and the $5,400 limit would have applied. Public campaign filings are also supposed to account for all loans, contributions and payments; Trumpâs made no mention of the Cohen arrangement.
Giuliani has argued that Cohen made the payment to Clifford on Trumpâs behalf for personal reasons not related to the campaign and should not, therefore, be counted as a campaign expense subject to election law restrictions. This new disclosure could help bolster that argument by Trump.
Beyond the repaid debt to Cohen, the 92-page form provides the most detailed window into how Trumpâs finances have fared during his presidency.
The document, which covers calendar year 2017, showed total income from Trumpâs business operations and investments of at least $453 million and assets valued at a minimum of $1.4 billion. The prior yearâs disclosure showed total income of at least $597 million and a similar level of assets, but that report span ned nearly a 16-month period so is not directly comparable.
It provides the first extended look at the performance of Trumpâs Washington hotel, which opened in September 2016 and has become a magnet for lobbyists and Republican aides. The hotel is one of his best performing properties and the disclosure listed revenues of $40.4 million.
Trumpâs Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, which the president frequents in the winter months, saw revenues of $25.1 million. Last yearâs filing listed revenues over a 16-month period at Mar-a-Lago of $37.3 million.
Other properties have not fared as well, including Trump National Doral, a golf resort near Miami, which is Trumpâs biggest cash flow generator. It reported revenue of $74.8 million. Revenue there had tumbled in the filing a year ago, even after a major renovation.
The filing also offers a lens into the Trump Organizationâs debts, beyond the money he owed, and then repaid, to Cohen. A large share of that debt stems from Deutsche Bank loans to Trump National Doral.
Trump earned at least $1.1 million from his operations in India, the most active location overseas for the Trump Organization, with at least four active real estate projects, in Mumbai, Pune, Kolkata and Gurgaon, which is outside of New Delhi.
At least an additional $1.1 million came from operations in the Philippines and Istanbul and at least $558,000 from Panama, where the Trump family had a branded condo and hotel complex, which was renamed earlier this year after a dispute with condo owners.
The form also shows that Melania Trump earned between $100,001 and $1 million from Getty Images, the photo licensing company.
Individual performance aside, there are broader signs that the business is retreating somewhat during the first part of Trumpâs presidency.
Since he took office, Trumpâs name has been erased from three of his family companyâs prized properties. His company has watched its pipel ine of deals ebb and flow. And one new line of business it has pursued is limited to quietly managing other companiesâ hotels that are unattached to its once-flashy brand.
The owners of struggling hotels in Toronto and New York have paid the Trumps millions of dollars to remove their name from the properties after the election. In Panama, a nasty feud engulfed the Trump hotel there when the majority owner wanted the Trumps out â" leading to the Trump name being pried off with a crowbar.
The presidentâs company has also been stymied by some of the new ethics restrictions it voluntarily adopted after the election.
As part of a voluntary ethics plan, the Trump Organization has not pursued new deals in foreign countries, cutting off an important stream of business that was projected to provide much of its future revenue. The Trump Organization is also subjecting all new domestic projects to vetting from an outside ethics adviser, which appears to have had a chilli ng effect on certain potential deals: the company has yet to open a new hotel in the United States since Trump took office.
The Trumps also had a wave of cancellations at the Mar-a-Lago club amid a backlash over the presidentâs comments about the violence in Charlottesville, Va., last summer.
Faced with these challenges, the company has decided to focus primarily on its existing properties, which consist of 16 golf courses, a winery, seven stand-alone hotels, Mar-a-Lago and a portfolio of commercial and residential real estate properties. While the Trump Organization owns many of those properties, it shifted in recent years to branding and managing properties, rather than owning them outright.
In at least one case, the Trumps began quietly managing a hotel property in Livingston, N.J., which is owned by the family of Jared Kushner, Trumpâs son-in-law and adviser. Trump reported $20,000 in fees on that deal.
And despite rolling out two new and more afforda ble hotel lines â" Scion, a four-star-chain, and American Idea, a budget-friendly brand â" the Trump Organization has only announced one such endeavour, a deal in the Mississippi Delta.
The filing showed that Trump has received $26,667 in management fees related to the project.
The head of the companyâs hotel division, Eric Danziger, said in March that the pipeline of current deals is âstill very active,â and that he is continuing to line up new Scion and American Idea hotels.Read more about: TOP STORIES, DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX.NEW NEWSLETTERHEADLINESSIGN UPSource: Google News