The lawyer for adult film star Stormy Daniels said Thursday he was “stunned” after hearing Rudy Giuliani reveal that President Donald Trump had reimbursed his personal lawyer Michael Cohen for the $130,000 payment to Daniels.
“I was stunned. I was speechless,” Michael Avenatti said in an interview on CNN’s “New Day.”
Avenatti knocked Giuliani’s assertion that no campaign funds were used for the payment, therefore there’s no campaign finance violation: “That’s not how the law works,” he said.
“I think it’s very likely there’s criminal liability associated with how this repayment was structured, relating to what was disclosed from a campaign finance perspective,” Avenatti said.
Cohen said in February he used his “own personal funds to facilitate a payment” to Daniels in 2016 to keep her quiet about an alleged affair with Trump in 2006, which the White House says Trump denies. Cohen said at the time that “neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign” reimbursed him the $130,000 paid to Daniels.
On Wednesday, Giuliani, who had recently joined Trump’s legal team in the Russia investigation, told Fox News that the President paid back Cohen, the money was “not campaign money” and that the payment was “funneled” through Cohen’s law firm.
Avenatti said that there would be a violation of campaign finance laws if Trump and Cohen structured the payment “in a way to avoid detection or in an effort to make it appear to be something that it was not, namely, a retainer payment as opposed to $130,000 reimbursement, that may involve money laundering depending on how it was handled.”
“There also may be tax issues relating to the deductibility of those expenses. If they were deducted as legal expenses for tax purposes when in reality it had nothing to do with legal services rendered, but instead was the reimbursement of the $130,000, that too is going to be a problem,” he said.
After previously denying last month that he knew about the payment, Trump tweeted Thursday that Cohen was paid via a monthly retainer “not from the campaign and having nothing to do with the campaign.”
Avenatti told CNN that he thought it was “obvious” that Trump “did not write either one of those tweets,” but that the tweets “create additional significant liability for the President.”