Between October 2017 and January 2018, the Trump campaign made three payments to a firm representing the President’s attorney, Michael Cohen, according to Federal Election Commission records. The payments, of $228,000 for “legal consulting fees”, raise the question of whether the campaign has violated campaign finance laws.
Cohen has said that he did not have a formal role in the Trump campaign, and it is illegal to spend campaign funds for personal use – defined by the FEC as payments for expenses “that would exist irrespective of the candidate’s campaign or responsibilities as a federal officeholder.”
“They’re on shaky legal ground,” said Stephen Spaulding, chief of strategy at the nonprofit watchdog group Common Cause. “It sounds like they are really pushing the envelope … If the campaign were to say they are campaign-related payments, then maybe it’s okay to use campaign funds. But he can’t have it both ways.”
Legal experts told ABC News that if the payments referenced in the FEC filings are related to the Russia investigation, they likely wouldn’t violate campaign finance law, as the investigation is related to the 2016 presidential campaign. If the payments are related to the Stormy Daniels matter, however, the campaign could have a problem.
Michael Cohen, the President’s long time friend and attorney, asserted his 5th amendment rights in the Stormy Daniels’ lawsuit and was granted a 3 month stay because of the legal jeopardy he faces from the FBI criminal investigation in New York that was sparked by findings in Special Counsel Mueller’s Russia probe.
The Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee has paid $514,000 in legal fees for Donald Trump, Jr and has paid attorneys representing other top aids and family members who are caught up in the Special Counsel’s investigation into the campaign’s involvement with Russian election meddling.
Sources say the legal consultation payments were not related to the Daniels’ case, but it is unclear what exactly the payments were for. Both the Trump campaign and Cohen’s attorney declined to comment.