PRESIDENT TRUMP’S longtime personal lawyer was clearly dismissive when the Wall Street Journal last month reported he had arranged payment in the weeks before the 2016 election of $130,000 to porn star Stormy Daniels to stop her from publicly talking about an alleged sexual tryst with Mr. Trump. “President Trump once again vehemently denies any such occurrence as has Ms. Daniels,” said Michael Cohen.
And he was downright indignant when the Journal followed up with a report about his use of a limited-liability company to shield the payment. “You’re [sic] obsessive drive to prove a false narrative, one that has been rebuked by all parties, must come to an end,” he wrote in an email.
Notice, though, that Mr. Cohen never really denied the $130,000 payment. Now we know why. In a carefully worded statement released Tuesday to the New York Times, Mr. Cohen acknowledged both the six-figure payment and his involvement. “In a private transaction in 2016, I used my own personal funds to facilitate a payment of $130,000 to Ms. Stephanie Clifford,” he said, using Ms. Daniels’s legal name. “Neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms. Clifford, and neither reimbursed me for the payment, either directly or indirectly.”
The statement raises more questions than it answers. Does use of the word “facilitate” mean Mr. Cohen was, in fact, repaid? If so, by whom? Was Mr. Trump aware or involved? Who instigated the payment? Were other payments made to other people? And — most pointedly — why give $130,000 to silence someone with a story that supposedly has absolutely no merit?
Whether Mr. Trump had — as has been alleged but denied by the White House — a consensual sexual encounter with Ms. Daniels a decade ago while he was married is a matter between him and his wife. But the payment of hush money seemingly to influence a presidential campaign is cause for public concern. Opinion is divided about whether there were possible violations of campaign-finance laws, and further investigation is clearly needed.
Mr. Cohen said he won’t have any further comment. A manager for Ms. Daniels said the adult film actress believes that Mr. Cohen invalidated the nondisclosure agreement by publicly discussing the payment, freeing her to talk. Let’s hope that leads to answers that clear the air about this suspicious payment.