Today, Common Cause is filing amended complaints with the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to include President Trump himself as well as his personal attorney Michael Cohen for their roles in what appear to be numerous violations of campaign finance law related to the $130,000 hush money payment to Stephanie Clifford (a.k.a. Stormy Daniels) just weeks before the 2016 election. The amended filings come in light of new details, in the form of court filings, public statements and published reports, that have emerged since Common Cause filed its original complaints in January.
The new details appear to directly link Trump to the hush money negotiations and payment. And Cohen has now admitted making the payment to Clifford for a nondisclosure agreement related to an affair the adult film star alleged to have had with the President more than a decade ago. Essential Consultants LLC was created just weeks before the election by Trump attorney Michael Cohen apparently for the sole purpose of hiding the payment for Clifford’s silence.
“Transparency in political spending is something Americans deserve and have come to expect since the Watergate scandal and the law is clear that it is not optional for federal candidates,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause. “If the Justice Department and the FEC determine these apparent illegal activities violate the law, they must hold all parties accountable – even the President of the United States.”
“Emerging details appear to directly link President Trump to the hush money payments to the adult film star expanding the list of apparent violations,” said Paul S. Ryan, Common Cause vice president for policy and litigation. “If the allegations prove true it is hard to argue credibly that hush money payments to cover up an affair between a presidential candidate and an adult film star, weeks before the election, were not intended to influence that election. Hush money may be commonplace in some businesses, but when it is spent to influence a federal election it must be disclosed – without exception.”
The amended complaint alleges that the payment to Clifford was made by an agent of President Trump, Michael Cohen, and in coordination with Trump—making the payment both an expenditure by the 2016 Trump campaign committee and an in-kind contribution to the committee. The campaign committee violated federal campaign finance law by failing to report the expenditure and in-kind contribution.
Additionally, the amended complaint alleges that Cohen—as the source of the $130,000 paid to Clifford—made an illegally large in-kind contribution to the Trump campaign. Similarly, the amended complaint alleges that Essential Consultants LLC, through which the payment was routed, made an illegal contribution to the Trump campaign.
The amended complaint also alleges reason to believe that the Trump Organization violated federal law by facilitating a contribution to the Trump campaign. Cohen was employed by the Trump Organization at the time he made the payment to Clifford and apparently used his Trump Organization email to arrange the payment, suggesting he made the payment to Clifford in his capacity as an employee of the Trump Organization and Donald J. Trump.
Finally, the amended complaint alleges reason to believe that Cohen was reimbursed for the $130,000 payment to Clifford and that, if Cohen was reimbursed by the Trump Organization or anyone other than Donald J. Trump (i.e., “John Doe”), then such source of reimbursement made an illegal in-kind contribution to the Trump campaign.