During a question-and-answer session with reporters aboard Air Force One in April 2018, President Donald Trump flatly denied having any knowledge of hush money paid just before the 2016 election to Stormy Daniels, a porn actress who claimed to have had an affair with him.
“Mr. President, did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?” a reporter asked him.
“No,” Trump replied.
Reporter: "Mr. President, did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?"— NBC News (@NBCNews) April 5, 2018
President Trump: "No." pic.twitter.com/wHTR7o5lqB
But during his testimony before the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday, Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer and fixer, claimed that Trump did not tell the truth — and he apparently has receipts to back it up.
Cohen provided Congress with a copy of an August 2017 check for $35,000 that appears to be signed by Trump. Cohen said the check was a partial reimbursement for the $130,000 payment Cohen made through a shell company to Daniels in October 2016.
“I am providing a copy of a $35,000 check that President Trump personally signed from his personal bank account on August 1 of 2017 — when he was president of the United States — pursuant to the cover-up, which was the basis of my guilty plea, to reimburse me — the word used by Mr. Trump’s TV lawyer — for the illegal hush money I paid on his behalf,” Cohen said. “This $35,000 check was one of 11 check installments that was paid throughout the year, while he was president.”
Cohen also turned over a copy of a March 2017 check for the same amount that was signed by Donald Trump Jr. and Trump Organization chief operating officer Allen Weisselberg. He said Trump and other Trump Organization officials were aware of the plan to reimburse him over the course of a year instead of in a single payment because they wanted to “make it look like a retainer.”
“The goal was to keep him far away from it,” Cohen said.
Cohen said the effort to cover up the hush payment to Daniels even came up during his first visit to the White House following Trump’s inauguration in February 2017. He testified that during that Oval Office meeting, the president told him “something to the effect of, ‘Don’t worry, Michael, reimbursement checks are coming.’”
Later, under questioning from Rep. Katie Hill (D-CA), Cohen said that Trump called him to coordinate a false cover story about the Daniels payment in February 2018 — one month after the Wall Street Journal broke news of the payment, and two months before the Air Force One flight where Trump denied knowing anything about it at all.
Under questioning from @RepKatieHill, Cohen says that Trump called him to coordinate messaging about the hush payment to Stormy Daniels in February 2018 -- two months before Trump denied knowing anything about it. pic.twitter.com/QhXRs0LPxV— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) February 27, 2019
Cohen pleaded guilty to felonies in connection to the payment to Daniels and a second $150,000 payment he orchestrated from American Media Inc. to Karen McDougal — another woman who claimed to have an affair with Trump. On Wednesday, Cohen said a made a secret recording of him discussing the McDougal payment during the fall of 2017 because he anticipated Trump wouldn’t follow through with reimbursing AMI.
Cohen says that Trump was supposed to reimburse AMI for the $150,000 hush payment to Karen McDougal, but stiffed them.— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) February 27, 2019
"David Pecker was angry," he says. pic.twitter.com/DUAi4mAWUe
Even if Cohen’s account is true, it’s unclear whether Trump and other Trump Organization officials like Donald Trump Jr. were aware that the payments to Daniels and McDougal violated campaign finance laws that make it illegal to make an unreported donation of more than $2,700 to a candidate in a general election.
But in light of Cohen’s testimony, it’s worth revisiting Trump’s on-camera April 2018 comments, and noting the brazenness with which he appears to have been lying.