Center for Public Integrity: Donald Trump, Michael Cohen and the Stormy Daniels payment: a Q&A
By Dave Levinthal and Carrie Levine
In three tweets Thursday morning, Trump contended that the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels was a “private contract between two parties” and “very common among celebrities and people of wealth.” He argued that Cohen, who facilitated the transaction with Daniels, “received a monthly retainer, not from the campaign and having nothing to do with the campaign.” Trump later underscored that “money from the campaign, or campaign contributions, played no roll [sic] in this transaction.”
It may also be difficult for government investigators to prove whether Trump’s payment to Daniels constituted a campaign contribution in any way, said Brad Smith, a former FEC chairman and president of pro-campaign deregulation organization Institute for Free Speech.
“Many, many things that influence campaigns – and may be intended to influence campaigns – are not campaign expenditures,” Smith said. “Activities of the Clinton Foundation, for example. Think tank reports on policy proposals. A candidate choosing to contribute personally to charities. A candidate might want a new suit to look good for a debate.”
He added: “The consequences of expanding the idea of ‘campaign contribution’ to anything that might indirectly help with the public perception of a candidate are, I think, not pretty.”