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In his congressional testimony on Wednesday, Michael Cohen produced evidence of hush money paid to porn actress Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels, to keep her from revealing an affair with President Trump. Cohen also accused the president of inflating his financial assets during dealings with banks but under-reporting them to the IRS. Judy Woodruff talks to Lisa Desjardins for more.
But, right now, I do want to turn to more of the testimony. Michael Cohen also described hush money payments he says President Trump directed him to make to two women who have been alleged to have had extramarital affairs with Mr. Trump.
Michael Cohen today produced a copy of the $130,000 wire transfer he paid to porn film actress Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels, which Cohen says she demanded to keep quiet about the alleged affair.
The transfer is dated October 26. That is just days before the November 2016 presidential election. Cohen also produced a copy of a personal check he wrote to — that was written out to Cohen, and signed by Mr. Trump, of $35,000 on August 1, 2017, while Mr. Trump was president.
Cohen says it was partial reimbursement for his payment to Clifford, which violated campaign finance rules.
The president of the United States thus wrote a personal check for the payment of hush money as part of a criminal scheme to violate campaign finance laws.
Rep. Katie Hill, D-Calif.:
Did the president call you to coordinate on public messaging about the payments to Ms. Clifford in or around February 2018?
What did the president ask or suggest that you say about the payments or reimbursements?
He was not knowledgeable of these reimbursements, and he wasn't knowledgeable of my actions.
He asked you to say that?
In addition to the personal check for $35,000 in July 2017, is there additional corroborating evidence that Mr. Trump, while a sitting president of the United States, directly reimbursed you hush money as part of a criminal scheme to violate campaign finance law?
There are 11 checks that I received for the year.
Cohen also accused the president of inflating his own financial assets.
Here's his exchange with Missouri Democrat Lacy Clay.
I'm giving the committee today three years of Mr. Trump's personal financial statements, from 2011, 2012 and 2013, which he gave to Deutsche Bank to inquire about a loan to buy the Buffalo Bills and to "Forbes."
Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-Mo.:
Can you explain why you had financial statements and what you used them for?
These statements were used by me for two purposes. One was discussing with media, whether it was "Forbes" or other magazines, to demonstrate Mr. Trump's significant net worth.
That was one function. Another was, when we were dealing later on with insurance companies, we would provide them with these copies, so that they would understand that the premium, which is based sometimes upon the individual's capabilities to pay, would be reduced.
And all of this was done at the president's direction and with his knowledge?
Yes, because whatever the numbers would come back to be, we would immediately report it back.
And did this information provided to us inflate the president's assets?
I believe these numbers are inflated.
To your knowledge, did the president ever provide inflated assets to a bank in order to help him obtain a loan?
These documents and others were provided to Deutsche Bank on one occasion where I was with him in our attempt to obtain money, so that we can put a bid on the Buffalo Bills.
So, Lisa, as we're hearing, the Democrats did put a fair amount of focus today on the president's finances. What was the thinking there?
As we wait for the Mueller investigation, a lot of Democrats think there may be more of a clear, direct connection of wrongdoing for the president himself when it comes to his money matters.
That's why this came up again. And, of course, this is something Cohen knows a lot about, himself, personally. So to kind of break down all of that sound, that was a lot from Mr. Cohen. Let's start with first this inflating of Mr. Trump's assets.
One reason that that is a big exclamation point is because, if he did inflate assets to a bank, that is potentially bank fraud. But, on the other end, there was another allegation here, which was that he — as he overstated his assets to one group of people, he understated it, Mr. Cohen said, to the U.S. — to the IRS, in order to make sure his taxes federally and also his local property taxes would be lower than perhaps he deserved to pay.
So Mr. Cohen was accusing Mr. Trump of basically cheating in two different ways. This is something that the Trump Organization has denied.
Now, there's another set of financial issues here. That is the hush money that he is accused of paying to two women. And what's significant here, there's a couple of things. One, Mr. Cohen was talking — and when he talked in that clip about the messaging Mr. Trump gave him, that was to reporters.
It's not a crime to lie to reporters, unfortunately. But it could be a crime, potentially, if Mr. Trump testified about this in a hearing or encouraged Mr. Cohen to change his own testimony and lie for him.
So that's where we're watching this hush money in particular. The president, I want to say, initially denied having any knowledge of that hush money, and then later walked that back and said, no, these were private payments that are totally legal.
And we will see. This is sort of act one in a very large drama, obviously.
For a different purpose, not being clear about what the purpose was.
That's right. He left it open, but Mr. Cohen was saying, this is what it was for. Republicans dispute that.
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