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Officials:Trump Lawyers Gave False Info

Officials:Trump Lawyers Gave False Info02/16 10:47

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- Federal ethics officials believe President Donald Trump's 
lawyers provided false information about the $130,000 payment to buy the 
silence of porn actress Stormy Daniels after she alleged she had sex with 
Trump, the chairman of the House oversight committee said Friday.

   Rep. Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democrat, said internal documents from the 
Office of Government Ethics described that Trump's personal lawyer, Sheri 
Dillon, and former White House attorney Stefan Passantino provided false 
information and "evolving stories" about the payment.

   In a letter to White House counsel Pat Cipollone, Cummings requested the 
White House turn over documents as part of the committee's investigation into 
whether Trump failed to properly report the payments as campaign expenditures. 
Trump's former lawyer, Michael Cohen, has pleaded guilty to campaign finance 
violations connected to the payments. He said Trump personally directed him to 
make them.

   The Trump Organization paid Cohen $420,000 in monthly installments of 
$35,000 throughout 2017, after Cohen sought reimbursement for the hush-money 
payment to Daniels and other expenses, according to court documents. 
Prosecutors alleged he used "sham" invoices to try to conceal the true nature 
of the payments.

   Cohen previously said the Trump Organization didn't reimburse him for the 
payments, while Trump has said Cohen was reimbursed through a retainer 
agreement in order to stop "false and extortionist accusations."

   In internal notes obtained by the committee, one ethics official described 
the changing explanations from Trump's legal team as "evolving stories," the 
chairman said.

   At first, Dillon told the ethics officials that Trump didn't owe Cohen any 
money and said that she confirmed with Trump that Cohen wasn't owed any money 
in 2016 or 2017. The letter says that in one of the notes, the officials 
summarized the position of Trump's lawyers: "Michael Cohen did not loan Pres 
Trump $."

   After Trump tweeted in May 2018 that the hush-money agreement was paid using 
a monthly retainer agreement, the ethics officials went back to Dillon and were 
told that all the payments were "in connection with legal services," and 
compared them to "routine vendor payments," according to the letter.

   Passantino made the same argument, saying the payments were for legal fees 
charged on a monthly basis, according to the letter. After ethics officials 
asked to see the retainer agreement, Dillion denied the request and said it was 
privileged, Cummings wrote.

   Cummings argues that it is even more critical for the White House to produce 
the requested documents in light of the statements made to the ethics 
officials. He asked the White House to respond by next week about whether they 
intend to voluntarily comply with the request.

   Neither Dillon nor Passantino immediately responded to emails seeking 
comment on Friday. The White House had no immediate comment.

   The Republicans on the committee, who are in the minority, said in a 
statement that Cummings' letter is "merely retreading an old and tired story 
intended to embarrass the President." The statement chastised Cummings for 
using "cherry-picked confidential deliberations" in order to "smear" Trump.

   The House oversight committee is also seeking similar documents from the 
Trump Organization.


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