In February 2018, several weeks after the Wall Street Journal broke the news that Michael Cohen paid $130,000 to porn star Stormy Daniels to silence her about her relationship with Donald Trump, Cohen issued a statement saying he used his “own funds” and that neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was privy to the arrangement.
The statement did not mention Trump personally.
At his hearing before the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday, Cohen testified that President Trump and Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer, directed him to intentionally omit Trump’s name.
“That was what was discussed to do,” Cohen said.
“So it was carefully worded?” asked Rep. Katie Hill, D-Calif., vice chairwoman of the committee.
“Yes, ma’am,” Cohen replied.
Cohen was then asked about a phone call from Trump that he received the next day, during a meeting with a Vanity Fair reporter. Cohen said Trump called to coordinate the messaging around the hush-money payment.
According to Cohen, Trump told him to say he was “not knowledgeable of these payments and he wasn’t knowledgeable of my actions.”
Following the Wall Street Journal report, Trump insisted that he was not aware of Cohen’s payments to Daniels.
In April 2018, when asked by reporters aboard Air Force One if he knew about the payment to Daniels, Trump said “No.” Asked if he knew where the money came from to pay Daniels, Trump told reporters, “No, I don’t know.”
On Wednesday, Cohen submitted to the House panel a copy of a $35,000 check he says Trump gave to him in July 2017 in partial reimbursement of the payment to Daniels.
He told the committee there are a total of 11 checks issued by Trump himself or Trump associates that year.
Last year, Cohen pleaded guilty to charges involving campaign finance fraud relating to the payment to Daniels, and to lying to Congress.
He is scheduled to begin a three-year prison sentence in May.
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