Tuesday, May 15, 2018

What did Donald Trump do today?

He filed financial disclosure forms about his hush-money payments to porn stars--probably.

The Office of Government Ethics announced today that Trump had filed his annual financial disclosure report. Normally this is a routine bureaucratic filing, but Trump--who hasn't exactly been shy about his intention to make money off the presidency--has inadvertently made it important this year, because of his sexual and financial connection with the porn actress Stormy Daniels.

Where Daniels is concerned, Trump's story is difficult to keep straight, but in at least one version, he reimbursed his attorney/fixer Michael Cohen for the $130,000 hush-money payment that Cohen's LLC paid up front to Daniels. This means that Trump owed Cohen more than $10,000, which in turn means that the debt would have to be reported on the disclosure forms. (Trump's disclosure for the year 2016 did not mention the Daniels money.)

Whether it will actually appear on the forms, which are usually released promptly to the public, is unclear. It's possible Trump will simply lie. It's also possible that there is no debt to report because the truth is something other than what Trump, Cohen, or Rudy Giuliani have told the public so far. 

Finally, it may be that the Trump employees filling out the reports simply weren't told about the shadier aspects of Trump's accounting. Trump deliberately kept his business with Cohen secret from the rest of his inner circle, which is precisely why Trump and so many close to him are alarmed at what Cohen might tell investigators.

So what?

  • Presidents are subject to the law, even when it's not convenient for them.
  • It's bad if presidents only tell the truth when they're forced to.
  • It's even worse if they can't be forced to under any circumstances.