In her first briefing since late January, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Monday she was not “aware” of why President Trump wrote a $35,000 check to his former personal attorney and fixer Michael Cohen in the summer of 2017.
“I’m not aware of those specific things,” Sanders said after being asked by CBS News correspondent Paula Reid about the payment.
Cohen told Congress last month he received the money as reimbursement for payments he made to film star Stormy Daniels, who alleges she had an affair with the president. Among other counts, he pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance law and lying to Congress, and is scheduled to start a three-year federal prison sentence in May.
Pressed by Reid, Sanders said the president has repeatedly denied breaking campaign finance laws. “I would refer you back to the president’s comments,” she said. “That’s not something I’m a part of, and I would refer you to the president’s outside counsel beyond his comments.”
During his congressional testimony in late February, Cohen provided the House Committee on Oversight and Reform a copy of the $35,000 check he said the president made out to him from a personal bank account to pay off Daniels and make sure she did not disclose her alleged extramarital affair with Mr. Trump.
Reid told Sanders the president’s story about the alleged hush payments has changed over the time. Mr. Trump initially vowed he had no knowledge of the payments but has since referred to them as “private transactions.”
Sanders was also asked if the White House denies that the president is the “Individual 1” referenced inby the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. Last year, prosecutors said Cohen violated campaign finance laws “in coordination with and at the direction” of “Individual 1.”
Cohen told Congress last month Mr. Trump is “individual 1.”
“I’m not going to comment on an ongoing case. That’s not something I would be a part of at the White House,” she replied, again referring reporters to Mr. Trump’s personal legal team.
“What I can tell you is the president has stated his position and made it clear,” Sanders added before leaving the White House briefing room podium.