Michael Cohen, personal attorney for President Donald Trump, used his Trump Organization email to arrange to have money transferred to former adult film actress Stephanie Clifford, NBC News reported on Friday.
A source familiar with the negotiations said Cohen used the Trump-affiliated email address to arrange the 2016 transfer of $130,000 to Clifford, who goes by the stage name Stormy Daniels. The lawyer used the same email in other negotiations with Clifford, who signed a nondisclosure agreement not to speak publicly about an alleged 2006 affair she had with Trump.
In those email communications, Clifford’s then-attorney, Keith Davidson, referred to Cohen as “Special Counsel to Donald J. Trump” and addressed correspondence to him in his capacity at the Trump Organization, a source familiar with the discussions told NBC News.
The report could undermine Cohen’s efforts to take Trump out of the discourse surrounding Clifford and the 2016 payout.
“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,” Cohen told The New York Times last month.
Cohen added that the $130,000 payment came out of his own pocket and “was not a campaign contribution or a campaign expenditure by anyone.”
But an email provided to NBC by Clifford’s current attorney, Michael Avenatti, appears to show that Cohen communicated with First Republic Bank using his Trump company email address in discussing the payout.
The bank emailed Cohen on Oct. 26, 2016, to say that a certain amount of money had been deposited into his checking account. It was not clear whether the bank was referring to a personal bank account or a work account, but the correspondence was addressed to Cohen’s Trump Organization email address.
Cohen then forwarded the communication to his Gmail address and then forwarded that to Davidson, perhaps to indicate that the money was ready to be wired.
“Mr. Cohen should immediately provide the prior emails to show exactly where the money came from,” Avenatti told NBC.
Cohen called Avenatti’s concerns “ludicrous” and downplayed the significance of the email.
“I sent emails from the Trump Org email address to my family, friends as well as Trump business emails. I basically used it for everything. I am certain most people can relate,” he told ABC News on Friday.
On the matter of where the $130,000 sent to Clifford’s attorney came from, Cohen said: “The funds were taken from my home equity line and transferred internally to my LLC account in the same bank.”
Cohen’s payment to Clifford, which was routed through an account with City National Bank controlled by Davidson, was flagged on several occasions. First Republic filed a suspicious activity report on the money transfer with the Treasury Department, The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday. It wasn’t clear when the bank filed the report.
In September 2017, City National asked Davidson about the source of the payment, according to The Washington Post. The bank didn’t specify the reason for its interest.
Watchdog group Common Cause filed a complaint to the Federal Election Commission and the Justice Department to determine if the payment ran afoul of campaign laws as an in-kind contribution.
The Trump Organization, Davidson, Cohen and Cohen’s attorney did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders did not respond Friday to questions from reporters about Daniels, saying, “I’ve addressed this extensively, and I don’t have anything else to add.”
Avenatti is currently representing Clifford in a lawsuit against the president, claiming Trump never signed their nondisclosure agreement. The agreement blocked Clifford from publicly discussing her alleged relationship with Trump. According to the suit, Clifford and Cohen signed the document, but Trump did not, allegedly nullifying the agreement.
In January, The Wall Street Journal reported that Clifford allegedly had an affair with Trump in 2006, a year after he married Melania Knauss and a few months after their son, Barron, was born.
The White House has denied that ever happened.
Clifford’s lawyer also initially released a statement from the actress denying the affair. But the lawsuit, filed on Tuesday, said Clifford was forced into signing that denial by Cohen through “intimidation and coercive tactics.”
Clifford also said through her manager in February that Cohen invalidated their agreement when he acknowledged that he’d paid her $130,000 in a “private transaction” just before the 2016 presidential election.
“Everything is off now, and Stormy is going to tell her story,” manager Gina Rodriguez told The Associated Press.
This post has been updated with comments from Michael Cohen and Sarah Huckabee Sanders.