GOP fundraiser leaves post over payment arranged by Trump lawyer to pregnant Playboy model
WASHINGTON — A top Republican fundraiser with ties to President Trump resigned Friday from the leadership of the Republican National Committee after news emerged that Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen helped arrange a $1.6 million payment to a Playboy model who said she was impregnated by the donor.
Elliot Broidy, a Los Angeles-based investor who served as the RNC's deputy national finance chairman, acknowledged a "consensual relationship" with the woman. Broidy said he retained Cohen's service after the lawyer told Broidy that the woman's lawyer had contacted him.
In his statement, Broidy said it was "unfortunate that this personal matter between two consenting adults is the subject of national discussion just because of Michael Cohen's involvement."
Ronna McDaniel, the RNC's chairwoman, said Broidy offered his resignation on Friday. "He doesn't want to be a distraction to helping us elect Republicans and keeping the president's agenda moving forward," McDaniel said on CNN.
Cohen, who also serves as a deputy finance chairman for the national party, is under criminal investigation for possible fraud and is at the center of controversy for his role in paying $130,000 days before the 2016 election to former porn star Stormy Daniels. Daniels says she had a sexual encounter with Trump in 2006. Trump has denied the affair and said he did not know about the agreement Cohen reached with the adult actress.
Reached by phone on Friday, Cohen said he was busy with his attorney and could not talk. Further attempts to interview him on Friday afternoon were unsuccessful.
Cohen's role in the Broidy agreement casts a spotlight on the combative lawyer who is one of Trump's closest allies and has prided himself as a key "fixer" during Trump's years as a New York real-estate magnate and reality TV star.
In court filings Friday, federal prosecutors said Cohen is the target of a "months-long" criminal probe into his personal finances and business dealings.
McDaniel said Cohen still serves as a top fundraiser for the RNC. She said she wants to conduct "her due diligence" and talk with Cohen before making any decisions about his role with the national party.
The committee's leadership has been rocked by allegations of misconduct. Earlier this year Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn resigned as the party's finance chairman amid sexual assault allegations.
In his statement, Broidy said the woman with whom he had an affair told him of the pregnancy after their relationship had ended. "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 said.
The payment was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
The Broidy revelations underscore ties between Cohen and Keith Davidson, a Los Angeles attorney who represented the woman with whom Broidy had the affair. In his statement, Broidy said he retained Cohen after Trump's lawyer "informed me about his prior relationship with Mr. Davidson."
Davidson represented Daniels in her negotiations with Cohen in the weeks before the presidential election. He also negotiated a $150,000 payment in 2016 from the parent company of the National Enquirer for Karen McDougal, a Playboy model who says she had an affair with Trump.
Davidson did not return a telephone call on Friday.
Both McDougal and Daniels have hired new lawyers to represent them and have sued to break free of the agreements they reached ahead of the 2016 election.