A major donor with close ties to the White House resigned on Friday as deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee after the revelation that he had agreed to pay $1.6 million to a former Playboy model who became pregnant during an affair.
The deal was arranged in the final months of 2017 by President Trump’s personal lawyer and fixer, Michael D. Cohen.
Under the terms of the deal, the Republican donor, Elliott Broidy, would pay the woman in installments over the course of two years, and she would agree to stay silent about their relationship, two people with knowledge of the arrangement told The New York Times. The deal was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
The agreement with Mr. Broidy is the latest instance to come to light of Mr. Cohen’s involvement in efforts to suppress negative information. On Monday, as part of a wide-ranging federal inquiry into Mr. Cohen’s activities, the Federal Bureau of Investigation raided the lawyer’s Manhattan office and hotel room. The F.B.I. was seeking, among other things, business records, emails and documents relating to Mr. Cohen’s role in paid confidentiality agreements during the presidential campaign with two other women, who said they had had sexual relationships with Mr. Trump.
Donald J. Trump’s longtime lawyer has been making media appearances to support and defend the real estate mogul since 2006. Here’s how Michael Cohen came to be known as the president’s fixer and attack dog.Published OnApril 11, 2018CreditImage by Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call, via Associated Press
One of the women, a former Playboy model named Karen McDougal, sold the rights to her story for $150,000 to American Media Inc., the publisher of The National Enquirer. The other woman, Stephanie Clifford, a pornographic film actress known as Stormy Daniels, received a payment of $130,000 that Mr. Cohen said came out of his own pocket.
Both of the women were represented by Keith M. Davidson. Mr. Davidson also represented the woman in the agreement Mr. Cohen struck on behalf of Mr. Broidy, further establishing a pattern of collaboration between the lawyers in striking for-pay accommodations to silence women’s allegations about powerful men.
The deal involving Mr. Broidy was not known to be a subject of the federal investigation. It is unclear whether the F.B.I. has scrutinized Mr. Davidson, who is no longer representing the former Playboy model. Her new lawyer is Peter K. Stris, who also now represents Ms. McDougal.
In his statement, Mr. Broidy apologized to his wife and family while acknowledging that he had had an affair with the woman, who has not been identified. He said that “she alone decided that she did not want to continue with the pregnancy, and I offered to help her financially during this difficult period.”
He lamented that the issue had become a national news story, which he attributed to the publicity surrounding the federal investigation of Mr. Cohen. He said that the lawyer “reached out to me after being contacted by this woman’s attorney, Keith Davidson,” and that he hired Mr. Cohen after Mr. Cohen “informed me about his prior relationship with Mr. Davidson.”
In fact, the contract in Mr. Broidy’s case included the same aliases that were used in the 2016 contract with Ms. Clifford — “David Dennison” and “Peggy Peterson” — according to a person familiar with it.
A spokesman for Mr. Davidson said he could not confirm or deny the details of the agreement. In a statement, Mr. Davidson said, “I’ve always acted in my client’s best interest, and appropriately in all matters.”
Mr. Cohen declined to comment.
Mr. Davidson’s relationship with Mr. Cohen forms part of the basis for a lawsuit Ms. McDougal has filed seeking to get out of her contract with A.M.I.; The Enquirer never ran her story after buying it in August 2016.
In the lawsuit, she contends that Mr. Cohen played a secret role in the negotiations for that deal, though he had no formal reason to be involved, given that the talks were between Ms. McDougal and the tabloid media company. The Times reported earlier this year that Mr. Cohen and Mr. Davidson discussed the deal the day before Ms. McDougal signed the contract.
Mr. Broidy was a national deputy chairman of the R.N.C.’s finance committee, a title he shared with Mr. Cohen, who remains in that role. Mr. Broidy is the second member of that committee to resign this year amid questions involving their behavior with women and deals to silence them. In January, the casino magnate Stephen Wynn stepped down from the committee’s chairmanship after allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced against him, one resulting in a settlement of $7.5 million.
Keith M. Davidson, the Playboy model’s lawyer in the arrangement, also represented two women who were paid to remain silent about alleged affairs with Mr. Trump.
Mr. Broidy was a major fund-raiser for former President George W. Bush, but he is particularly connected in Mr. Trump’s orbit.
He got his start in business as an accountant and then as an investment manager for Glen Bell, the founder of Taco Bell. He was a vice chairman of Mr. Trump’s inaugural committee, has met frequently with top White House officials and had an Oval Office meeting with the president in October, according to documents obtained by The Times.
During the wide-ranging October meeting, Mr. Broidy raised numerous topics high on the agenda of the United Arab Emirates, a country that has given his security company a contract worth hundreds of millions of dollars. He pitched the president on a paramilitary force his company was developing for the U.A.E. and urged Mr. Trump to fire Rex W. Tillerson, then the secretary of state, who the U.A.E. believed was insufficiently tough on its rival Qatar.
The documents show that Mr. Broidy has worked closely with George Nader, an adviser to the U.A.E. and a witness in the special counsel’s investigation, to help steer Trump administration policy on numerous issues in the Middle East. Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, is examining Mr. Nader’s possible role in funneling Emirati money to finance Mr. Trump’s political efforts. There is no indication that Mr. Mueller’s team is looking into Mr. Broidy.
In 2009, Mr. Broidy pleaded guilty to charges that he made nearly $1 million worth of illegal gifts to New York State officials in order to win an investment of $250 million from the state’s public pension fund. Among the gifts were trips to Israel and Italy, payouts to officials’ relatives and girlfriends and an investment in one relative’s production of a low-budget movie called “Chooch.”
Source: New York Times