Ex-FEC chief lawyer: Trump attorney may have made a 'colossal screwup' with Stormy Daniels statement

The former chief lawyer for the Federal Election Commission said that Michael Cohen’s public statement confirming that he “facilitated” a $130,000 statement to a porn star in the closing weeks of the 2016 election may have been a “colossal screwup” that raises the chances that the agency could launch a formal investigation.

In the Friday episode of “Skullduggery,” a Yahoo News podcast, Lawrence Noble, who served for 13 years as the FEC’s general counsel, said Cohen’s statement could “ramp up” pressure on the agency to act — especially if the porn star, who goes by the name Stormy Daniels, now confirms that the payoff was directly linked to her keeping quiet during the election campaign about her alleged past relationship with President Trump.

Listen: Episode 6: Michael Cohen’s ‘stormy’ screwup

“If she comes out and says, ‘They came to me and they said look, the election is in a couple of weeks, and we need you to be quiet before the election, and we don’t want this coming out, then I think the Trump campaign has a real problem,” said Noble, who now serves as chief counsel for the Campaign Legal Center, a watchdog group. “I think they have to be very nervous about that.”

53 PHOTOS
Porn star Stephanie Clifford, aka Stormy Daniels, who allegedly had a yearlong affair with Trump
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Porn star Stephanie Clifford, aka Stormy Daniels, who allegedly had a yearlong affair with Trump
LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 21: Adult film actress/director Stormy Daniels attends the 2017 Adult Video News Awards at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on January 21, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Gabe Ginsberg/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 21: Actress Stormy Daniels arrives at the 2017 Adult Video News Awards held at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on January 21, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Albert L. Ortega/FilmMagic)
LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 18: Adult film actress/director Stormy Daniels appears at the Wicked Pictures booth at the 2017 AVN Adult Entertainment Expo at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on January 18, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 18: Adult film actress/director Stormy Daniels appears at the Wicked Pictures booth at the 2017 AVN Adult Entertainment Expo at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on January 18, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 23: Adult film actor/musician Brendon Miller (L) and his wife, adult film actress/director Stormy Daniels, attend the 2016 Adult Video News Awards at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on January 23, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 23: Adult film actress/director Stormy Daniels attends the 2016 Adult Video News Awards at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on January 23, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 15: Adult film actress Stormy Daniels arrives for the 2016 XBIZ Awards held at JW Marriott Los Angeles at L.A. LIVE on January 15, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 22: Adult film actress/director Stormy Daniels poses at the Wicked Pictures booth at the 2015 AVN Adult Entertainment Expo at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on January 22, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 22: Adult film actresses/directors jessica drake (L) and Stormy Daniels pose at the Wicked Pictures booth at the 2015 AVN Adult Entertainment Expo at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on January 22, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
FORT LAUDERDALE, FL - MAY 03: Stormy Daniels attends Exxxotica 2014 on May 3, 2014 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. (Photo by Larry Marano/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 16: Adult film actress Stormy Daniels attends the 2014 AVN Adult Entertainment Expo at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on January 16, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Gabe Ginsberg/FilmMagic)
LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 16: Adult film actress Stormy Daniels attends the 2014 AVN Adult Entertainment Expo at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on January 16, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Gabe Ginsberg/FilmMagic)
LAS VEGAS, NV - MAY 05: Adult film actress Stormy Daniels arrives at the Sapphire Pool & Day Club grand opening party on May 5, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Gabe Ginsberg/FilmMagic)
CENTURY CITY, CA - JANUARY 11: Adult film actress Stormy Daniels and adult film actor Brendon Miller arrive for the 2013 XBIZ Awards held at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza on January 11, 2013 in Century City, California. (Photo by Albert L. Ortega/WireImage)
CENTURY CITY, CA - JANUARY 11: Adult film actress Stormy Daniels arrives for the 2013 XBIZ Awards held at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza on January 11, 2013 in Century City, California. (Photo by Albert L. Ortega/WireImage)
LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 20: Adult film actress Stormy Daniels appears during an autograph signing for Wicked Pictures at the 2012 AVN Adult Entertainment Expo at The Joint inside the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino January 20, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 21: Adult film actress Stormy Daniels (L), and her husband, adult film actor Brendon Miller, arrive at the 29th annual Adult Video News Awards Show at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino January 21, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 20: Adult film actress Stormy Daniels appears during an autograph signing for Wicked Pictures at the 2012 AVN Adult Entertainment Expo at The Joint inside the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino January 20, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS - OCTOBER 03: Stormy Daniels (R) arrives at Jet Nightclub at The Mirage on October 3, 2009 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Denise Truscello/WireImage)
Musician Dave Navarro and actress Stormy Daniels arrive at the premiere 'Forgetting Sarah Marshall' at the Grauman's Chinese Theater on April 10, 2008 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic)
HOLLYWOOD - APRIL 10: Musician Dave Navarro and actress Stormy Daniels arrive at the premiere 'Forgetting Sarah Marshall' at the Grauman's Chinese Theater on April 10, 2008 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic)
Stormy Daniels arrives at the 50th Grammy Awards in Los Angeles on February 10, 2008. AFP PHOTO/Gabriel BOUYS (Photo credit should read GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Actress Stormy Daniels arrives to the 50th Annual GRAMMY Awards at the Staples Center on February 10, 2008 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Gregg DeGuire/WireImage) *** Local Caption ***
LAS VEGAS - JANUARY 12: Actress Stormy Daniels arrives at a naughty night to remember at TAO Nightclub at The Venetian Hotel and Casino Resort on January 12, 2008 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Farina/WireImage) *** Local Caption ***
LAS VEGAS - JANUARY 12: Adult film actress Stormy Daniels (L) and radio talk show host Bubba the Love Sponge arrive at the 25th annual Adult Video News Awards Show at the Mandalay Bay Events Center January 12, 2008 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - AUGUST 13: Stormy Daniels attends 'Superbad' Premiere Los Angeles - Arrivals at Mann's Chinese Theatre on August 13, 2007 in Hollywood, CA. (Photo by ANDREAS BRANCH/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD - AUGUST 13: Actress Stormy Daniels attends the premiere of Superbad at Grauman's Chinese Theatre on August 13, 2007 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage) *** Local Caption ***
Stormy Daniels during 'Knocked Up' Los Angeles Premiere - Red Carpet at Mann's Village Theater in Westwood, California, United States. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc for Variety Magazine)
Stormy Daniels during 'Knocked Up' Los Angeles Premiere - Arrivals at Mann Village Theatre in Westwood, California, United States. (Photo by Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage)
Stormy Daniels and Gerard Butler (Photo by Denise Truscello/WireImage)
Stormy Daniels during GQ Magazine Celebrates Heineken Premium Light at Les Deux in Hollywood, California, United States. (Photo by M. Tran/FilmMagic)
Ron Jeremy and Stormy Daniels during Ron Jeremy Birthday Bash Hosted by Stormy Daniels in Association with Penthouse and Esterman - March 10, 2007 at Element in Hollywood, California, United States. (Photo by Enos Solomon/FilmMagic)
Ron Jeremy and Stormy Daniels (Photo by Enos Solomon/FilmMagic)
LAS VEGAS - JANUARY 13: Dieter Esch, head of Wilhelmina Models (L), and adult film actress Stormy Daniels arrive at the 24th annual Adult Video News Awards Show at the Mandalay Bay Events Center January 13, 2007 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS - JANUARY 13: Adult film actress Stormy Daniels arrives at the 24th annual Adult Video News Awards Show at the Mandalay Bay Events Center January 13, 2007 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Stormy Daniels (Photo by Denise Truscello/WireImage) *** Local Caption ***
HOLLYWOOD - NOVEMBER 2: Socialite Stormy Daniels attends the Grand Opening of An Original Penguin on November 2, 2006 Hollywood, California. (Photo by Thos Robinson/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD - NOVEMBER 2: Socialite Stormy Daniels attends the Grand Opening of An Original Penguin on November 2, 2006 Hollywood, California. (Photo by Thos Robinson/Getty Images)
Stormy Daniels during 'The Bliss' Los Angeles Screening - Arrivals at Cinespace in Hollywood, California, United States. (Photo by Michael Tran/FilmMagic)
LAS VEGAS - AUGUST 28: Adult film actress Stormy Daniels presents a creation by Junker Designs during a fashion show debuting the company's new collection at the Rainbow Bar & Grill as part of the MAGIC convention August 28, 2006 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Stormy Daniels (Photo by Mark Sullivan/WireImage) *** Local Caption ***
Stormy Daniels (Photo by Denise Truscello/WireImage) *** Local Caption ***
LAS VEGAS - JUNE 03: Adult film actress Stormy Daniels arrives at the first annual Head to Hollywood Celebrity Charity Poker Tournament and Auction at The Joint inside the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino June 3, 2006 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The charity, founded by actress Carmen Electra and Us Weekly editor Ken Baker, provides brain tumor survivors and their families a VIP celebrity experience in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Actresss Stormy Daniels arrives to the Sheila and Lynn Marbry's Elevate Hope Foundation 'Circle of Passion' pre-Oscar benefit event at the Pacific Design Center Sunday evening. (Photo by Axel Koester/Corbis via Getty Images)
Actresses Stormy Daniels (R) and Kristen Price arrive to the Sheila and Lynn Marbry's Elevate Hope Foundation 'Circle of Passion' pre-Oscar benefit event at the Pacific Design Center Sunday evening. (Photo by Axel Koester/Corbis via Getty Images)
Jose Canseco and Stormy Daniels during Guy's North in Studio City Grand Opening - Red Carpet and Inside at Guys North in Studio City, California, United States. (Photo by John Shearer/WireImage for BWR Public Relations)
Pornstar, Stormy Daniels AKA Stormy Waters during Missy Elliot Hosts Yahoo! Music's Exclusive Grammy After Party at Mood in Hollywood, CA, United States. (Photo by Derek Bauer/FilmMagic)
Stormy Daniels and Jose Canseco during Yahoo! Music and Missy Elliot Post-Grammy Event at Mood in Hollywood, CA, United States. (Photo by M. Phillips/WireImage for Strategic Group)
Stormy Daniels AKA Stormy Waters, Wicked Contract Performer (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - APRIL 10: Dave Navarro and Stormy Daniels attend The Universal Pictures Premiere of Forgetting Sarah Marshall at Graumans Chinese Theatre on April 10, 2008 in Hollywood, CA. (Photo by ANDREAS BRANCH/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD - JULY 27: Comedian Dane Cook with Stormy Daniels attend a signing for his new CD/DVD 'Retaliation' at Tower Records on July 27, 2005 in Hollywood California. (Photo by Matthew Simmons/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD - JULY 27: Stormy Daniels attends a signing for Comedian Dane Cook's new CD/DVD 'Retaliation' at Tower Records on July 27, 2005 in Hollywood California. (Photo by Matthew Simmons/Getty Images)
Angel Cassiday and Stormy Daniels AKA Stormy Waters (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic)
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That scenario could well be the case, according to a close friend of Daniels who told Yahoo News about his conversations with her. The porn star’s manager has said that Cohen’s public confirmation of the October 2016 payoff gives her ground to scrap a nondisclosure agreement she signed at the time and speak out publicly.

According to Daniels’s friend, who asked not to be publicly identified because of the potential impact on his business, there was never any question that the purpose of the payment was to buy her silence during the campaign.

“That’s exactly why that transaction took place,” said the friend, who discussed the matter on multiple occasions with Daniels at the time. “She was talking to ‘Good Morning America,’ she was talking to the media — and they paid her to keep her quiet. This was October and November.”

Download or subscribe on iTunes: Skullduggery by Yahoo News

Noble, in his interview with “Skullduggery,” said Cohen’s statement about the matter was inexplicable. Common Cause, citing media reports, had filed a formal complaint with the FEC against the Trump campaign and the Trump Organization, arguing that the payment to Daniels (whose real name is Stephanie Clifford) needed to be investigated as a potential violation of federal election law because it was not publicly reported and was far in excess of the $2,700 limit on individual contributions during a campaign.

But neither Daniels nor the Trump organization had publicly confirmed there was any such payment — until Cohen, the president’s longtime personal lawyer and pit bull defender, issued his statement this week. The statement purported to summarize his lawyer’s formal response to the Common Cause complaint that was submitted to the FEC.

Cohen’s carefully worded statement said: “I used my own personal funds to facilitate a payment of $130,000 to Ms. Stephanie Clifford. Neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms. Clifford, and neither reimbursed me for the payment, either directly or indirectly.”

But Cohen’s statement admitted only that he used his personal funds for facilitating the payment, not the payment itself. The facilitation, Noble said, could simply have been the cost of setting up a Delaware Limited Liability Corporation through which, according to the Wall Street Journal, the payment was made.

Cohen’s statement did not specifically say whether he also made the actual payment, leaving open the possibility that others — Trump himself, a friend, a corporation or even a foreign national — may have put up the funds.

What is striking, according to Noble, is that Cohen said anything publicly at all because he was under obligation to do so.

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Former Playboy playmate Karen McDougal
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Former Playboy playmate Karen McDougal
SIMI VALLEY, CA - MARCH 30: Playmates Katie Lohmann (top) and Karen McDougal attend the 7th Annual Playboy Golf Scramble championship finals at Lost Canyons Golf Club on March 30, 2007 in Simi Valley, California. (Photo by Chad Buchanan/Getty Images)
Karen McDougal during 7th Annual Playboy Golf Scramble Championship Finals at Lost Canyons Golf Club in Simi Valley, California, United States. (Photo by Enos Solomon/FilmMagic)
SIMI VALLEY, CA - MARCH 30: Playmate Karen McDougal attends the 7th Annual Playboy Golf Scramble championship finals at Lost Canyons Golf Club on March 30, 2007 in Simi Valley, California. (Photo by Chad Buchanan/Getty Images)
Karen McDougal during 7th Annual Playboy Golf Scramble Championship Finals at Lost Canyons Golf Club in Simi Valley, California, United States. (Photo by Enos Solomon/FilmMagic)
382949 09: Playboy playmate Karen McDougal strikes a pose as a pinup girl similiar to a watercolor painting by Alberto Vargas December 7, 2000 at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles, CA. Playboy founder Hugh Hefner announced the sale of four rare Alberto Vargas watercolors to be sold on the new Playboy Auctions web site. Vargas'' classic watercolors of pinup girls appeared in Playboy magazine in the 1960''s. (Photo by Vince Bucci/Newsmakers)
Karen McDougal during Movieline's Hollywood Life 7th Annual Young Hollywood Awards - Arrivals at Music Box at The Fonda in Hollywood, California, United States. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic)
Hugh Hefner, George Maloof, Christine Santiago, Karen McDougal, Julie Cialini (Photo by Denise Truscello/WireImage)
382949 04: Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, center, poses with playmates, left to right, Carrie Stevens, Kalin Olson, Karen McDougal and Deanna Brooks dressed as pinup girls December 7, 2000 at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles, CA. Hefner announced the sale of four rare Alberto Vargas watercolors to be sold on the new Playboy Auctions web site. Vargas'' classic watercolors of pinup girls appeared in Playboy magazine in the 1960''s. (Photo by Vince Bucci/Newsmakers)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - OCTOBER 15: Actress Karen McDougal arrives at the launch party to celebrate Diane von Furstenberg's limited edition designer mobile phone at Astra West in the Pacific Design Center on October 15, 2004 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Cherie Steinberg/Getty Images)
MIAMI BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 06: Karen McDougal, Playboy Playmate of the Year 1998 attend Playboy's Super Saturday Night Party presented by Bacardi at Sagamore Hotel on February 6, 2010 in Miami Beach, Florida. (Photo by Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for Bacardi)
5/28/98 Beverly Hills, Ca Hugh Hefner and Playmate of the Year Karen McDougal at the Playboy Mansion.
Newly named Playboy Playmate of the Year Karen McDougal poses with her new Shelby series Mustang which she received May 28 at ceremonies held at the Playboy Mansion in Beverly Hills, Ca.The Indiana native will be featured in the July issue of the magazine.
Newly-named Playboy Playmate of the Year Karen McDougal poses with Playboy magazine founder and editor in chief Hugh Hefner May 28 at ceremonies held at the Playboy Mansion in Beverly Hills, Ca.The Indiana native will be featured in the July issue of the magazine. SSM/RC
7-10-98 Los Angeles, Ca Playboy Launches Search For Playmates For The Mellennium. Lead Singer Of 'Janes Addiction' Perry Farrell With Stacy Sanches And Karen Mcdougal. (Photo By John Chapple/Getty Images)
Karen McDougal during Miramax Films, Archie Comics and Kitson Launch New Apparel Line Featuring 'Betty & Veronica' at Kitson Retail Store in Beverly Hills, California, United States. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic)
Playboy Playmates Karen McDougal and Carrie Stevens *exclusive* ***Exclusive*** (Photo by Chris Polk/FilmMagic)
Karen McDougal (Photo by Gregg DeGuire/WireImage)
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“Why he went public I don’t know.” Noble said. “If I was his lawyer, I would have told him, ‘Don’t do this.’’

He added at another point: “This may have been a colossal screw up on his part.”

The FEC’s staff is prohibited by law from publicly releasing any responses to its complaints — so Cohen’s lawyer’s retort to the Common Cause complaint would have remained confidential. Moreover, the chances that the FEC would have actually launched a formal investigation — resulting in subpoenas and questioning of witnesses — would have been “slim.” Such a move would have required a vote by all four commissioners — including the two Republicans, who rarely support requests for formal investigations of campaigns.

But if Cohen’s statement prompts Daniels to speak out publicly and dispute his account, then the agency may have no choice then to act.

“I’ve been practicing campaign finance law for 40 years and I never expected to be talking about a president, his lawyer and a porn star,” Noble said on “Skullduggery.” “I don’t remember another case where we had a porn star as a witness.”

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