Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, said he paid $130,000 out of his own pocket to an adult-movie actress who alleged a sexual encounter with Mr. Trump.
The Wall Street Journal reported in January that Mr. Cohen made the payment in October 2016 through a limited liability company in exchange for the adult-movie star, Stephanie Clifford, signing a nondisclosure agreement about her allegations of a sexual encounter with Mr. Trump in 2006.
Ms. Clifford, commonly known by her screen name Stormy Daniels, previously had said in a statement issued through Mr. Cohen that she didn't have a “sexual and/or romantic affair” or receive “hush money from Donald Trump.” Ms. Clifford has privately said she had a sexual encounter with Mr. Trump after a celebrity golf tournament, the Journal previously reported.
Common Cause, a government- watchdog group, filed complaints with the Federal Election Commission and the Justice Department after the Journal's story in January. The complaint asked the agencies to investigate the payment as potentially violating campaign finance laws.
“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,” Mr. Cohen said in a statement late Tuesday via text message, which was first reported by the New York Times.
Mr. Cohen, who worked as a senior executive at the Trump Organization until early last year, didn't rule out Mr. Trump reimbursing him for the payment.
Mr. Cohen declined to say why he would spend his own money to pay Ms. Clifford. In January, Mr. Cohen didn't address the $130,000 payment but said of the alleged sexual encounter that “President Trump once again vehemently denies any such occurrence as has Ms. Daniels.” The Journal later reported that Mr. Cohen made the payment through a limited-liability company.
In his statement released late Tuesday, Mr. Cohen said: “I am Mr. Trump's longtime special counsel and I have proudly served in that role for more than a decade. In a private transaction in 2016, I used my own personal funds to facilitate a payment of $130,000 to Ms. Stephanie Clifford.
“I do not plan to provide any further comment on the FEC matter or regarding Ms. Clifford. Just because something isn't true doesn't mean that it can't cause you harm or damage. I will always protect Mr. Trump.”
The White House has denied any sexual encounter took place and declined to comment on any agreement between Mr. Cohen and Ms. Clifford. The White House didn't immediately return a request for comment on Mr. Cohen's statement Tuesday evening.
Keith Davidson, a Los Angeles attorney who represented Ms. Clifford in negotiations with Mr. Cohen, confirmed that Mr. Cohen entered into a settlement with his client for $130,000. Mr. Cohen “represented that his funds were the source of the money he paid” to Ms. Clifford, Mr. Davidson said in an interview Tuesday. He declined to discuss the nature of the agreement between Mr. Cohen and Ms. Clifford.
Campaign-finance experts said Mr. Cohen's payment, even if he footed the bill, may have violated election rules because it wasn't reported to the Federal Election Commission.
Stephen Spaulding, chief of strategy at Common Cause, which filed the complaint against Mr. Cohen, said the payment would amount to an excessive and undisclosed in kind campaign contribution if it was made “for the purpose of influencing the election— and there is strong reason to believe that it was intended to keep damaging information out of the news.” Individuals can donate up to $2,700 to a campaign per election.
In the statement, Mr. Cohen said the allegations in Common Cause's initial complaint were “factually unsupported and without legal merit.” He didn't respond to a subsequent request for comment about Mr. Spaulding's allegation.
By Rebecca Ballhaus, Joe Palazzolo and Michael Rothfeld