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 says he will 'temporarily hold off' on declaring Mexican drug cartels as terror organization House Judiciary Committee formally receives impeachment report Artist behind gold toilet offered to Trump sells banana duct-taped to a wall for 0,000 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 RosensteinRosenstein, Sessions discussed firing Comey in late 2016 or early 2017: FBI notes Justice Dept releases another round of summaries from Mueller probe Judge rules former WH counsel McGahn must testify under subpoena 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.”