Michael Cohen may have even more problems brewing than previously suspected. I have an essay up on Slate explaining an ethics issue that has not yet been recognized. Here is the gist:
The Stormy Daniels affair appears to be growing more complex by the day—with its dueling lawsuits and contradictory claims—but one central fact appears beyond dispute: On the eve of the 2016 presidential election, attorney Michael Cohen paid the former porn star $130,000 in hush money, so that she would stay silent about her alleged affair with his client, Donald Trump. Given the timing, the payoff to Daniels looks a lot like an unreported campaign contribution, which would constitute a crime under U.S. law, but Cohen insists that he simply paid the money from the goodness of his heart.
That might seem like a pretty shaky defense, even if Cohen really used his home equity line to get the funds as he claims, but it turns out to be no defense at all. Cohen should be in hot soup either way.
As a New York lawyer, Cohen is required to follow Rule 1.8 of New York’s Rules of Professional Conduct, which provides that “While representing a client in connection with contemplated or pending litigation, a lawyer shall not advance or guarantee financial assistance to the client.” There are some exceptions for indigent clients, which are obviously inapplicable to Trump, so the only real issue is whether Cohen’s payment was made in connection with litigation. If so, it is pretty clear that Cohen has violated his state’s legal ethics rules.
You can read the whole piece here. (I did not write the headline.)