The U.S. Office of Government Ethics on Wednesday referred President Donald Trump’s financial disclosures to the Department of Justice after determining that he should have disclosed his reimbursement for a $130,000 payment to keep adult film star Stormy Daniels quiet about their alleged affair.
Trump’s latest disclosure form, which the office released on Wednesday, reflected that he reimbursed the amount in 2017 to his lawyer Michael Cohen, who arranged the nondisclosure agreement with Daniels.
But Trump was required to note the transaction as a liability the prior year and failed to do so. The office’s acting director David Apol in a letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein explained that the forms were being referred after the nonprofit legal watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) requested in a complaint that the agencies investigate whether the payment should have been reported.
“OGE has determined that the information provided in that note meets the disclosure requirements for a reportable liability under the Ethics in Government Act,” Apol wrote. “I am providing both reports to you because you may find the disclosure relevant to any inquiry you may be pursuing regarding the President’s prior report that was signed on June 14, 2017.”
CREW executive director Noah Bookbinder said in a statement that the liability revelation suggested that the watchdog was correct in its March complaint, raising concerns around why it was not disclosed in the prior year’s filing.
“It is good that in the face of overwhelming evidence and public pressure, the president came clean about this liability on this year’s form,” Bookbinder stated, “But we now have to wonder how many other liabilities for similar payments he has that he still has not disclosed because he has not been publicly called out on them.”
Bookbinder concluded: “If the [Justice] Department is not already investigating the president’s failure to disclose the loan last year, it should open an investigation immediately.”
Trump claimed he was unaware of Cohen’s payment to Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, until his new lawyer Rudy Giuliani revealed earlier this month that the president had reimbursed Cohen.