WASHINGTON (REUTERS) – President Donald Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen testified to Congress on Wednesday (Feb 27) that some reimbursement cheques issued to him for hush-money payments to an adult film star were signed by Donald Trump Jr and the Trump Organisation’s chief financial officer.
Cohen said Donald Trump himself, while president, signed a US$35,000 (S$47,000) cheque while he was president to repay him for “hush money I paid on his behalf,” Cohen told a House of Representatives committee.
“Other cheques to reimburse me for the hush money payments were signed by Don Jr and Allen Weisselberg,” he said, referring to the president’s son and the Trump Organisation CFO.
Cohen’s testimony raises the possibility that Donald Trump Jr could be prosecuted for violating campaign finance laws, depending on whether he knew what the payments were intended for, said lawyer Andy Wright, who served as associate counsel to President Barack Obama.
Cohen pleaded guilty in August to campaign finance violations relating to arranging payments to adult film star Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels, and to former Playboy model Karen McDougal, to maintain silence about their affairs with Trump ahead of the 2016 presidential election.
Alan Futerfas, a lawyer for Trump Jr, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Rudy Giuliani, a lawyer for Trump, declined to immediately comment on Cohen’s testimony.
On Wednesday, Cohen said Trump directed him to use his own funds from a home equity line of credit to pay Clifford to avoid any money being traced back to Trump.
Cohen said he was going to jail, in part, because of his decision “to help Mr Trump hide that payment from the American people before they voted a few days later.”
Cohen testified that Weisselberg knew the most about the payments, while Donald Trump Jr had “cursory information.”
A lawyer for Weisselberg declined to comment on Cohen’s testimony.
Weisselberg received grand jury immunity during the Cohen prosecution, Reuters has reported, citing a person familiar with the matter.
A spokesman for the US Attorney’s office in Manhattan, which prosecuted Cohen, declined to comment on whether Trump Jr could be charged with campaign finance violations.
It depends “on what Donald Trump Jr knew about what he was paying for and when,” Wright said. He added that the president’s son could be an accomplice after the fact, or part of the original scheme to engage in hush-money payments.
His father may not be prosecuted because of Justice Department policy to not indict a sitting president.
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