Michael Avenatti: Trump Lawyer Cohen Knew Stormy Daniels Payment Was All About the Election

Michael Avenatti, the lawyer representing adult film star Stormy Daniels (real name Stephanie Clifford), claimed there were "extensive communications" between the attorneys arranging the infamous hush payment, showing it "had everything to do with the election."

Days before the presidential election in November 2016, Clifford signed a non-disclosure agreement in exchange for $130,000 to keep quiet about an alleged affair with President Donald Trump a decade earlier. She was preparing to sell her story to the press. Trump denies the affair and knowledge of the hush payment until media reports of its existence emerged.

The NDA was arranged by Trump's longtime attorney Michael Cohen, who is now under investigation by federal prosecutors looking into the payment, which he made from his own funds and was later reimbursed for by the president. Clifford was represented by the attorney Keith Davidson.

Trump and Cohen deny any links between the payment and the election campaign. If such a connection exists, it would potentially put the payment in violation of campaign finance law if deemed to be a contribution in-kind, because it is both undeclared and excessive.

Michael Avenatti
Stormy Daniels attorney Michael Avenatti leaves a federal court in Manhattan on April 26. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

"There were extensive communications between Michael Cohen and Keith Davidson in October 2016 relating to the timing of this payment and the need for the payment to be made prior to the election," Avenatti said on MSNBC's The Last Word Thursday night.

"Extensive communications relating to the need for the payment to be made, when it was made, and as it related to potential influence on the election. Period.

"Everyone involved in this transaction around the time knew the importance of the payment as it related to the election. So any claim that the payment had nothing to do with the election is completely bogus. There's no question it had everything to do with the election."

Both Cohen's attorney and Davidson did not respond to requests for comment.

Rudy Giuliani, who is on Trump's legal team, revealed that the president had repaid Cohen the $130,000 over several months in 2017, appearing to contradict his claim to have had no knowledge of the hush deal. But Giuliani later said Trump was only told the money was for expenses, leaving him unaware of the payment to Clifford.

Giuliani also flatly denied there had been any campaign finance violation because the money came first from Cohen's own funds, and was then reimbursed by Trump's personal money.

"If we had to defend this as not being a campaign contribution, I think we could do that," Giuliani said on Fox & Friends. "This is for personal reasons. The president had been hurt personally, not politically, personally so much—and the first lady—by some of the false allegations."

However, Giuliani then said: "Imagine if that came out on October 15th, 2016, in the middle of the last debate with Hillary Clinton...Cohen didn't even ask. Cohen made it go away. He did his job."

🚨 BREAKING: @MichaelAvenatti tells @Lawrence there were communications the payment to Stormy Daniels had to be made in advance of the 2016 election. pic.twitter.com/6V8DomUguH

— The Last Word (@TheLastWord) May 4, 2018

Larry Noble, senior director and general counsel at the Campaign Legal Center, told CNN that "a loan or advance of money to a third party is an in-kind contribution that must be reported by the campaign and is subject to contribution limits."

"A loan that exceed $2,700 from one person is an excessive contribution, even if eventually repaid. In-kind contributions are generally subject to the same limitations and reporting requirements as any other contribution," Noble said.

"However, when someone pays a third party for the benefit of the campaign, the campaign had to know about it or otherwise accept it for the campaign to have accepted he contribution.

"Acceptance happens when the campaign physically accepts the tangible property or, when the campaign, the candidate or another agent of the campaign is involved in the transaction."

Cohen is suing Clifford for breaching the NDA. But Clifford's lawyer Avenatti argues it is null and void as Trump did not sign the deal, though he was a party to it.