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CBS News Interviews Trevor Potter on Legal Issues with Trump Attorney's $130,000 Payment

March 26, 2018, CBS News/60 Minutes

President Trump's attorney Michael Cohen has denied ever threatening Stormy Daniels. The payment Cohen made to her is now the subject of complaints to the Justice Department and the Federal Election Commission, alleging that it was an illegal campaign contribution.

What makes the dispute between Stormy Daniels and the president more than a high-profile tabloid scandal is that her silence was purchased eleven days before the presidential election, which may run afoul of campaign finance laws. The president's long-time lawyer Michael Cohen says he used $130,000 of his own money to pay Stormy Daniels. Cohen has said the money was not a campaign contribution. But Trevor Potter, a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission appointed by President George H.W. Bush, told [CBS News’ Anderson Cooper] he doesn't agree.

Trevor Potter: The payment of the money just creates an enormous legal mess for, I think, Trump, for Cohen and anyone else who was involved in this in the campaign.

Anderson Cooper: Are you saying that can be seen as a contribution to benefit a campaign?

Trevor Potter: I am. it's a $130,000 in-kind contribution by Cohen to the Trump campaign, which is about $126,500 above what he's allowed to give. And if he does this on behalf of his client, the candidate, that is a coordinated, illegal, in-kind contribution by Cohen for the purpose of influencing the election, of benefiting the candidate by keeping this secret.

The payment Stormy Daniels received is the subject of complaints by watchdog groups to the Department of Justice and the Federal Election Commission, which Trevor Potter used to be chairman of. He's now president of the non-partisan Campaign Legal Center, which supports the enforcement of campaign finance laws.

Anderson Cooper: If the president paid Michael Cohen back, is that an in-kind campaign contribution that the president should've then reported?

Trevor Potter: It is. If he was then reimbursed by the president, that doesn't remove the fact that the initial payment violated Cohen's contribution limits. I guess it mitigates it if he's paid back by the candidate because the candidate could have paid for it without limit.

Anderson Cooper: What if the president never reimbursed Michael Cohen?

Trevor Potter: Then he is still out on the line, having made a illegal in-kind contribution to the campaign.

Anderson Cooper: You're saying this is more serious for Michael Cohen if the president did not pay him back?

Trevor Potter: Yes. I think that's correct.

Mr. Potter also leads Caplin & Drysdale’s Political Law Group in Washington, D.C.

For the full interview, please visit CBS News’ website.

Excerpt taken from Anderson Cooper’s CBS News/60 Minutes interview: “Stormy Daniels Describes Her Alleged Affair with Donald Trump”.

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