Most of the questions surrounding the President’s payments to Ms. Clifford could be answered if the President would only provide us with copies of a few documents:
- Copies of the cancelled checks used to pay Mr. Cohen. We would then know the amounts and dates of all payments and the identity(ies) of the payors, e.g., Mr. Trump or one or more of his business entities.
- Copies of those portions of Mr. Trump’s income tax returns and/or those of one or more of his business entities reflecting the payments. We would then be able to determine whether the payments were considered business deductions or were treated as non-deductible personal expenses. We don’t need to see all of the returns, only those portions that reflect the payments.
- Copies of the written retainer agreement(s) or engagement letter(s) between Cohen, on one side, and Mr. Trump or one or more of his business entities on the other. In this regard, in New York the Rules of Professional Responsibility, § 1212.1, requires, in pertinent part, that: “[A]n attorney who undertakes to represent a client and enters into an arrangement for, charges or collects any fee from a client shall provide to the client a written letter of engagement before commencing the representation, or within a reasonable time thereafter (i) if otherwise impracticable or (ii) if the scope of services to be provided cannot be determined at the time of the commencement of representation.” If this (or these) agreement(s) were disclosed, we would then be able to determine the identity(ies) of Mr. Cohen’s client(s) and various other relevant information. (Section 1212.1 requires that the engagement letter “shall address the following matters: 1. Explanation of the scope of the legal services to be provided; and 2. Explanation of attorney’s fees to be charged, expenses and billing practices.”)
- Copies of Mr. Cohen’s invoices. We would then be able to determine whether the payment to Ms. Clifford was specifically disclosed to Mr. Trump and, if so, when that disclosure was made.
- Copies of any Forms 1099 reflecting payments to Mr. Cohen, his law firm, or Ms. Clifford. This would provide confirmation of the amounts of all payments and the identity(ies) of the payors, e.g., Mr. Trump or one or more of his business entities.
I rarely instruct other professionals (in this case, journalists) as to how to practice their professions. But here it would seem obvious that one gains little insight by journalists continually phrasing and rephrasing questions to spokespersons and surrogates for Trump. Just demand that Trump show us the evidence.