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Trump is implicated in his attorney’s Stormy Daniels payment for the first time

President Trump and porn star Stormy Daniels. (Carolyn Kaster, Matt Sayles/AP)

The headline on the Wall Street Journal’s latest Stormy Daniels scoop is that Trump attorney Michael Cohen’s $130,000 payment to the porn star set off red flags and was reported to the Treasury Department. But what came next seems much more important.

The Journal is also reporting that Cohen couldn’t get a hold of Trump late in the process and that he later complained that Trump hadn’t reimbursed him for the payment to Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford:

Mr. Cohen said he missed two deadlines earlier that month to make the $130,000 payment to Ms. Clifford because he couldn’t reach Mr. Trump in the hectic final days of the presidential campaign, the person said.
After Mr. Trump’s victory, Mr. Cohen complained to friends that he had yet to be reimbursed for the payment to Ms. Clifford, the people said.

This may read like background used to fill out a story, but it is actually quite significant. These paragraphs represent the first time a major news outlet has reported that Cohen had spoken even behind the scenes about Trump being involved in the payment. Previously, the origins of the payment were more mysterious.

We have suspected, of course, that Trump was involved. After all, what attorney would make such a payment without his client’s authorization? And even more than that, Cohen’s statement last month when he acknowledged making the payment explicitly said that the Trump Organization and campaign were not involved but conspicuously didn’t rule out Trump himself having been party to it. Cohen also said that he had “facilitated” the payment, which suggested that he might have been a go-between. I argued at the time that this seemed like a tacit acknowledgment that Trump was involved.

Cohen, for what it’s worth, is not commenting on the latest report. The Journal says he emailed it a two-word comment: “Fake news.”

There are some unanswered questions about the Journal’s report. Whom did Cohen say these things to? How did the person who knew about the Treasury Department being flagged also know about Cohen missing deadlines? And why in the world would Cohen walk around talking about the then-president-elect reimbursing him for hush money paid to a porn star?

But for now, we just broke some new ground.