Scandal

Trump's Terse Admission Could Have Legal Ramifications

Trump's Terse Admission Could Have Legal Ramifications

Trump tells reporters he was unaware of $130,000 payment, which has legal implications both for himself and his attorney, Michael Cohen.

Trump tells reporters he was unaware of $130,000 payment, which has legal implications both for himself and his attorney, Michael Cohen.

After months of silence, Donald Trump finally answered a question related to the Stormy Daniels controversy.  While aboard Air Force One, he was asked about knowledge of a $130,000 payment made to Stormy Daniels.  In uncommonly terse fashion, Trump simply answered “No.”

This two-letter response may have significant legal repercussions.  Foremost, it places Michael Cohen in ethical jeopardy.  The American Bar Association’s ethical guidelines for settlement negotiations places settlement authority in the hands of the client.  Section 3.2.1 of the ABA’s Ethical Guidelines for Settlement Negotiations requires that lawyers must either have authority that “unquestionably falls within the scope” of authority to settle unless a client “specifically consents to the agreement.”  If Cohen did not get approval from Trump to negotiate this $130,000 payment, he could be subject to discipline by a state bar which typically has very similar ethical requirements.

Additionally, this sounds like an admission that he was not aware of the terms of the agreement with Stormy Daniels.  If he was not aware of the terms, then he could not have entered into an agreement with these terms – contracts require knowledge.  That could mean that Stormy Daniel’s ‘hush agreement’ is therefore null and void, and she would be free to tell her story more fully.

Trump may be emboldened by the recent upward trend in his Rasmussen Reports approval rating, suggesting that the public may be indifferent to the ‘Stormy scandal,’ and Trump may have concluded that he faces very little political risk from the publication of the details. 

Drew Levine

Drew Levine is a co-founder of Statesmith.com. He's also a practicing attorney, a yoga instructor, and an enormous Star Wars nerd.

Drew Levine

Drew Levine is a co-founder of Statesmith.com. He's also a practicing attorney, a yoga instructor, and an enormous Star Wars nerd.