The president released financial disclosure forms on Wednesday, which showed he "fully reimbursed" Cohen, according to a report by CNBC. The annual public disclosure shows that he paid Cohen between $100,001 and $250,000 for unspecified purposes in 2017.
It is well known that Cohen paid adult film star Stormy Daniels $130,000 as part of a non-disclosure agreement, so that she wouldn't go public with her story of an alleged affair with Trump. At the beginning of May, Trump's new lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, said that the president had repaid Cohen for the payment, despite previous statements made.
Giuliani's statement raised the question of whether Cohen's payment to Daniels constituted an illegal contribution to the Trump campaign. Government ethics experts have waited with bated breath to see if the president's financial disclosure forms would address the alleged reimbursement, and now it appears they do.
The federal Office of Government Ethics sent a letter to the Justice Department, which was also released on Wednesday. In it, they said that "the payment by Mr. Cohen" to a third party should have been revealed in the president's financial disclosure last year according to law.
The Ethics Office's acting director reportedly sent both reports to the Justice Department on Wednesday, saying "you may find the disclosure relevant to any inquiry you may be pursuing."
Walter Shaub, the OGE's former director called the letter "tantamount to a criminal referral."
President Trump's disclosure filing does not identify the reason for the payment to Cohen. It says vaguely that Cohen incurred expenses in 2016 and later sought reimbursement for those expenses, "and Mr. Trump fully reimbursed Mr. Cohen in 2017." The form listed a range of $100,001 to $250,000 in the "category of value" for the reimbursement.
The disclosure also includes a footnote, which states that Cohen's expenses were "not required to be disclosed as 'reportable liabilities'" on the form. But the expense was being revealed, according to the disclosure, "in the interest of transparency."
The OGe appears to disagree, reportedly stating in a letter to attorney general Rod Rosenstein that the payment "is required to be reported as a liability."
The payment has become a massive story. A group called the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington have filed complaints about the payment, questioning whether it should have been reported last year, and Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings has said that he believes the president may have broken the law by not disclosing it.