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Ethics watchdog: Trump should have disclosed Cohen payment last year

Ethics watchdog: Trump should have disclosed Cohen payment last year
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A federal ethics official sent the Department of Justice a copy of President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump renews attacks against Tester over VA nominee on eve of Montana rally Trump submits 2017 federal income tax returns Corker: Trump administration 'clamped down' on Saudi intel, canceled briefing MORE's financial disclosure forms on Wednesday, suggesting a payment Trump made to his longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, in 2016 should have been reported last year.

The Office of Government Ethics (OGE) sent a copy of Trump’s financial disclosure forms from 2017 and 2018 to Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod Jay RosensteinRosenstein says Mueller probe is 'appropriate and independent' The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump requests Turkey's evidence on missing journalist | Takeaways from Texas Senate debate | Key Mueller findings could be ready after midterms Mueller to present key findings related to Russia probe after midterms: report MORE following a complaint filed in March calling for an investigation into whether Trump knowingly left the payment off of last year’s disclosure forms.

“I am providing both reports to you because you may find the disclosure relevant to any inquiry you may be pursuing regarding the President’s prior report that was signed on June 14, 2017,” David Apol, acting director of the OGE, wrote on May 16.

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Apol was referencing a complaint from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a left-leaning watchdog group.

Trump officially acknowledged for the first time on his financial disclosure Wednesday that he paid Cohen more than $100,000 for expenses he “incurred” in 2016.

Cohen has acknowledged he paid adult-film star Stormy Daniels $130,000 in October 2016 as part of a nondisclosure agreement related to her alleged affair with Trump a decade earlier.

CREW had filed a complaint in March with the OGE and the Justice Department questioning whether a payment from Cohen on Trump's behalf constituted a loan that should have been reported as a liability. The group called for an investigation into whether Trump willfully left the payment off of his 2017 forms.

CREW said in a statement that Trump’s disclosure forms vindicated its complaint and reiterated its calls for an investigation.

“It is good … the president came clean about this liability on this year’s form, but we now have to wonder how many other liabilities for similar payments he has that he still has not disclosed,” CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said in a statement.

Apol suggested in his letter to Rosenstein that Trump's payment to Cohen should have been disclosed on the president's forms that he signed on June 14, 2017, which applied to the 2016 calendar year.

The document released Wednesday does not specify the reason for Trump's payment to Cohen, but the OGE said it “meets the disclosure requirements for a reportable liability.”