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WASHINGTON — Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen will present evidence to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that goes to the heart of an allegedly illegal scheme to boost Donald Trump’s election chances by paying hush money to a porn star, a source familiar with his planned testimony told NBC News.
The source said Cohen will show the committee a signed check from the Trump Organization — a check Cohen will say was part of the reimbursement he received for his $130,000 payment during the 2016 presidential campaign to the adult film actress known as Stormy Daniels.
In a draft opening statement he is set to deliver to the committee, Cohen included a pair of checks that he says were part of that reimbursement plan. One, an August 2017 check for $35,000, was signed by Trump while another, from March 2017, was signed by Donald Trump Jr. and Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg.
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan say Cohen's payment to Daniels through a shell company in October 2016 was designed to buy her silence about an alleged affair with Trump, and in so doing, help Trump get elected president.
Because of that purpose, prosecutors say, and because it wasn’t disclosed in election records, the payment broke campaign finance laws.
Cohen’s intention to display the check was first reported by The Wall Street Journal. Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, has denied that the payments to Daniels and another women amounted to campaign finance crimes. Trump has called Cohen a liar who can’t be trusted.
After paying the actress from the proceeds of a home loan, Cohen got repayment from the Trump Organization in monthly installments of $35,000 that were described as legal fees, according to court records. But prosecutors said Cohen did not perform any legal services in connection with the payments.
Trump signed some of the monthly checks from the Trump Organization to Cohen, the source said. But it was unclear Tuesday night whether the check Cohen planned to show Congress bears Trump’s signature.
Nonetheless, Cohen’s testimony about the scheme, and any documents he provides, will return the spotlight to a case laid out by Manhattan federal prosecutors in court papers last August, when Cohen pleaded guilty to eight felony counts, including violating campaign finance law.
He faces a three-year sentence and is expected to report to prison May 6.
As part of his plea, Cohen directly implicated Trump in a felony.
In December, New York prosecutors filed a sentencing document that endorsed Cohen’s version of events, saying it was backed up with documents and other testimony.
The payment to Daniels was done at the behest of “Individual 1,” prosecutors said, which is how they described Donald Trump.
In seeking reimbursement from the Trump Organization for his payment to Daniels, court documents say, Cohen presented a bill totaling $420,000, a figure that included the original $130,000, another $50,000 for “tech services,” money to defray taxes, and a $60,000 bonus, court papers say.
Federal prosecutors in the Southern District of Manhattan are continuing to investigate the Trump Organization in connection with the hush money payments, NBC News has reported. Prosecutors also are examining spending by Trump’s inaugural committee, based in part on information from Cohen.
A watchdog group has also questioned whether the $130,000 Cohen paid to Daniels — and the $420,000 Cohen was paid in return — was properly accounted for on Trump’s federal financial disclosure statements when he became president.