No one ever said the job of president doesn’t involve a good deal of multi-tasking. But in the case of Donald J. Trump, the hardest part seems to be how to squeeze his responsibilities into a schedule dominated by writing checks in violation of campaign finance laws to cover up his sordid past behavior.
During last week’s public hearings, former Trump lawyer and “fixer” Michael Cohen produced two such checks, representing “hush money” payments by Trump to keep the public from knowing about his affair with adult film star Stormy Daniels. The New York Times has since obtained six more checks signed by either Trump himself, Trump’s son, Donald Jr., or the Trump “Trust,” each representing further payments to Daniels as well as payments made directly to Cohen for (among other things) his role in falsifying poll results in order to help Trump get elected.
These checks were signed and mailed on more or less a monthly basis throughout 2017, Trump’s first year in office. Most of the checks were written for $35,000 but some were “doubled up” to move the process along. So it makes for interesting reading to see what else Trump was doing in office on those days he signed (or signed off on) these checks. As the Times’s Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman report:
The president hosted a foreign leader in the Oval Office, then wrote a check. He haggled over legislation, then wrote a check. He traveled abroad, then wrote a check. On the same day he reportedly pressured the F.B.I. director to drop an investigation into a former aide, the president’s trust issued a check to Mr. Cohen in furtherance of what federal prosecutors have called a criminal scheme directed by Mr. Trump to violate campaign finance laws.
Busy fellow! In a clear gesture of heartfelt sentimentality toward his wife, Melania, the first check was sent out on Feb. 14, 2017 (Valentine’s Day).
Kate Riga over at Talking Points Memo did a day-by day analysis of what was otherwise occupying Trump on the days he performed this solemn executive function.
On March 17, the next check was signed for $35,000 in between Trump’s events with German Chancellor Angela Merkel as she visited the White House.
The third check obtained by the Times came on May 23 for $35,000 from overseas: Trump was meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu then President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority.
His next installment of $35,000 came August 1, the same day an aide confirmed that Trump had dictated a false statement about a meeting with the Russians.
Trump coughed up another $35,000 on September 12 while his press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, told reporters that the Department of Justice should investigate former FBI Director James Comey.
Another check was purportedly signed right after (or maybe even during) a phone call with his buddy Vladimir Putin.
So many checks, so little time. Although it’s not entirely clear, on those occasions when he was toasting foreign leaders, he may have signed these checks during lunchtime or while on bathroom breaks. But whatever the case, it’s nice to know what was keeping this president busy on those days when Huckabee Sanders was holding a press conference.
In fact, according to Michael Cohen, these “hush-money” checks were at the forefront of Trump’s thought process, practically from the day he took office.
By Mr. Cohen’s account, the checks began in February 2017, just weeks after Mr. Trump was inaugurated as president. When Mr. Cohen visited the Oval Office for the first time, he said, Mr. Trump raised the issue of the hush payments in the same room that symbolized the United States’ seat of power.
It should reassure all Americans that this president has such a clear sense of his priorities.