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Trump denies Cohen payment was a campaign contribution

President Donald Trump said Thursday that his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, was paid via a monthly retainer and that the hush agreement into which Cohen entered with Stormy Daniels had “nothing to do with the campaign.”

The President’s tweets come the morning after his lawyer, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, told Fox News that Trump paid back Cohen the $130,000 that was used to pay off Daniels, an adult film star who has alleged she had an affair with Trump. The President had previously denied knowledge of the payment, which has prompted complaints to the Justice Department and Federal Election Commission over potential violations of campaign finance law.

“Mr. Cohen, an attorney, received a monthly retainer, not from the campaign and having nothing to do with the campaign, from which he entered into, through reimbursement, a private contract between two parties, known as a non-disclosure agreement, or NDA,” Trump wrote on Twitter Thursday morning.

“These agreements are very common among celebrities and people of wealth,” Trump continued. “In this case it is in full force and effect and will be used in Arbitration for damages against Ms. Clifford (Daniels). The agreement was used to stop the false and extortionist accusations made by her about an affair despite already having signed a detailed letter admitting that there was no affair. ”

He added, “Prior to its violation by Ms. Clifford and her attorney, this was a private agreement. Money from the campaign, or campaign contributions, played no roll in this transaction.”

Speaking on Fox News Wednesday, Giuliani said the reimbursement to Cohen was “not campaign money” and that the payment was “perfectly legal.”

Cohen had admitted to paying Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, out of his own pocket through a private LLC. Daniels has sued Trump and Cohen, saying the nondisclosure agreement is void because Trump did not sign it.

The White House has said Trump denies the affair.

Shifting explanations

CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said on CNN’s “New Day” Thursday morning that it’s “not clear that there was any criminal violation here.”

“Even if it was campaign related, that’s a very esoteric crime that is rarely prosecuted,” he added.

But this week’s revelations have, at a minimum, deepened a political controversy for Trump as explanations over the Daniels controversy continue to evolve.

Just weeks before the 2016 election, Cohen created a private LLC to pay Daniels following an alleged July 2006 encounter with Trump, The Wall Street Journal reported in January.

In February, Cohen said in a statement that he used his own “personal funds” to facilitate the payment to Daniels.

“Neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms. Clifford, and neither reimbursed me for the payment, either directly or indirectly,” Cohen said at the time.

Trump told reporters last month that he didn’t know about the payment and deferred questions about the matter to Cohen.

The President has since distanced himself from Cohen, who was formerly a top confidante, telling Fox News last week that Cohen had overseen “a tiny, tiny little fraction” of his legal work.