New documents obtained by the House Oversight Committee indicate that two attorneys for President Donald Trump provided “false information” to ethics officials in their “evolving stories” about payoffs to women who claimed to have had affairs with Trump, committee chair Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) revealed Friday.
The new information concerns payments arranged by Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen to keep stories by adult-film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal out of the press during the 2016 presidential campaign.
“New documents ... describe false information” provided by Trump’s attorneys in the White House and in private practice who were questioned about the payments by federal officials, Cummings noted in a letter Friday to White House Counsel Pat Cipollone.
“This raises significant questions about why some of the president’s closest advisers made these false claims and the extent to which they too were acting at the direction of, or in coordination with, the president,” Cummings noted.
Cohen was convicted of campaign finance violations late last year and will begin his three-year prison term March 6. He said he made a $130,000 hush-money payment to Daniels “at the direction of” Trump for the “principal purpose of influencing the election.”
Cummings named Trump’s personal attorney Sheri Dillon and then-White House Deputy Counsel Stefan Passantino, who now works for the Trump Organization, as the attorneys suspected of making false statements to officials at the Office of Government Ethics.
Neither attorney could be immediately reached for comment.
Cummings said in the letter that Dillon “repeatedly stated to federal officials ... that Trump never owed any money to Mr. Cohen in 2016 and 2017.”
Passantino also told officials that Trump and Cohen had a “retainer agreement,” providing Cohen a flat monthly payment, according to Cummings’ letter. That was later contradicted by federal prosecutors.
Trump also said initially that he paid Cohen a retainer and that he had no idea that his attorney had provided hush money payments to women. But current Trump personal attorney Rudy Giuliani admitted later in an interview that Trump had reimbursed Cohen for the payments.
Cummings demanded that Cipollone finally provide “documents regarding the failure of President Donald Trump to report hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments and liabilities” to Cohen that the committee demanded in early January.
He complained in a second letter to Alan Futerfas, an attorney who represents the Trump Organization and Donald Trump Jr., that documents demanded by his committee had not yet been provided.