Today is a major deadline for Donald Trump and this legal team, who must either disclose the debts Donald Trump owed his attorney Michael Cohen for his agreement with Stormy Daniels and any other similar hush-money pay-outs or double-down on a dicey legal strategy. The Ethics in Government Act establishes May 15 as the deadline for reporting any "liabilities that exceeded $10,000 at any time during calendar year 2017."
That would include the $130,000 owed to Michael Cohen, who paid off Daniels in October 2016.
Does Trump now disclose the Daniels payout and any others, or risk a full-blown investigation into the money by a federal agency?
"The answer should be easy, but the president is in a difficult position. He left out the Daniels-related debt in the financial disclosure report he filed on June 14, 2017. Disclosing it now means acknowledging that he should have disclosed it last year," they write. "Disclosure may also lead to damaging revelations if he omitted other liabilities from any past financial disclosure reports or incurred new ones since June."
Essentially, Trump has to admit it was a campaign expense that he previously failed to disclose or set himself up for an investigation by the Federal Election Commission.
Shaub and Noti go through all the loopholes that Trump might try to use, all of which seem inconsistent with statements made by one or more members of his team. For example, claiming that the Trump Organization was the debtor could cause legal headaches as hushing Daniels right before the election could lead to criminal prosecution under the law which bans corporations from giving money to federal candidates, if the Trump Organization was trying, "even in part, to help Trump get elected and coordinated the payment with him."
The legal experts said Trump should just give up and come clean.
"Lacking a suitable loophole, Trump should cut his losses. He may already be in trouble for omitting his debt to Cohen from last year’s report. If that omission was knowing and willful, the president may have violated a law that comes with civil and criminal penalties," they write. "Trump should avoid giving Justice another potential violation to investigate when he files his next financial disclosure report."