The Smoking Bank Statement

The Trump “hush money” trial went on for 4 weeks, but in my mind, the entire case can be decided on one single piece of evidence, a bank statement presented in a meeting by Michael Cohen to the Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg and Donald Trump. It was a request for reimbursement. The document following was described and presented to the jury.

Two separate witnesses identified the handwriting lower left as that of Weisselberg. The bank statement itself shows a $130,000 wire transfer from Michael Cohen to Keith M Davidson Associates PLC. Davidson was the attorney for Stormy Daniels and testified that Cohen paid him the money. So this bank statement is unquestionably the record of the payment for the NDA. It can’t be anything else.

Now let’s turn to a remark by Defense attorney Todd Blanche, in his opening statement:

But, think for a moment of what the People just told you. President Trump did not pay Mr. Cohen back $130,000. President Trump paid Michael Cohen $420,000.

And in the same breath, the People told you that President Trump is known as a frugal businessman, that he pinches pennies.

Ask yourself: Would a frugal businessman, would a man who pinches pennies repay $130,000 debt to the tune of $420,000?

The bank statement with Weisselberg’s handwritten notes is the NDA payment. So armed with the knowledge that Cohen really was paid $420,000 for a $130,000 reimbursement, we explore Mr. Blanche’s question.

The notation on the right side was written by Cohen his reimbursement request: $130,000 for the NDA, $35 for the wire transfer, and $50,000 in reimbursement for some IT services from a company called Red Finch. The total reimbursement was $180,000, the top line in Weisselberg’s accounting. The next line is “Grossed up to $360,000” which according to testimony meant that it was increased to pay Cohen back for the income tax he would owe on legal fees (but he wouldn’t owe on a reimbursement). Cohen was in the 50% tax bracket so $360,000 in legal fees would cost him $180,000 in taxes, leaving $180,000 for the reimbursement. Finally $60,000 is added (not grossed up because it’s real income) as Cohen’s annual bonus. Total: $420,000.

Cohen testified that he had a second meeting with Donald Trump and Weisselberg to go over the arrangement.

So let’s return to Blanche’s question:

Would a frugal businessman, would a man who pinches pennies repay $130,000 debt to the tune of $420,000?

And the answer is that he wouldn’t unless he got something in return.

Trump didn’t want company records to accurately reflect what was an in-kind federal election expenditure that by law Trump would have had to report to the FEC (including the ultimate recipient) where it would go into its public data base to be found by ProPublica or some other enterprising new organization.

On this one piece of paper, we have:

  1. Proof that the payments were reimbursements from Trump to Cohen for the Stormy Daniels NDA.
  2. Proof that the reimbursements were made to appear as legal fees rather than reimbursements at an extra cost of $180,000 to Trump..
  3. Proof that the business records were intentionally falsified (legal expenses rather than reimbursements).
  4. An inescapable conclusion that the purpose of the falsification was to hide the payment from the public in violation of campaign finance law
  5. And just as a bonus, it’s also tax fraud because the legal fees were deductible from the income of Donald Trump, but campaign donations were not.

Would a frugal businessman, would a man who pinches pennies repay $130,000 debt to the tune of $420,000 and not know what it was for? No, he would not — beyond a reasonable doubt.


I’ve been reading further through court transcripts and I see Trump’s lead counsel Todd Blanche repeating the claim that there was no reimbursement to Cohen for the NDA. How can he say that?