Official who agreed to pay Playboy model $1.6m resigns

In his statement, Broidy apologised to his wife and family while acknowledging that he had an affair with the woman

Washington: 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 (Dh5.87 million) to a former Playboy model who became pregnant during an affair.

The deal was arranged in the final months of 2017 by President Donald 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 instalments 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 Broidy is the latest instance to come to light of Cohen’s involvement in efforts to suppress negative information. On Monday, as part of a wide-ranging federal inquiry into Cohen’s activities, the FBI raided the lawyer’s Manhattan office and hotel room. The FBI was seeking, among other things, business records, emails and documents relating to Cohen’s role in paid confidentiality agreements during the presidential campaign with two other women, who said they had sexual relationships with Trump.

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 Cohen said came out of his own pocket.

Both women were represented by Keith M. Davidson. Davidson also represented the woman in the agreement Cohen struck on behalf of Broidy, further establishing a pattern of collaboration between the lawyers in striking for-pay accommodations to silence women’s allegations of misbehaviour by powerful men.

The deal involving Broidy was not known to be a subject of the federal investigation. It is unclear whether the FBI has scrutinised Davidson, who is no longer representing the former Playboy model. Her new lawyer is Peter K. Stris, who also now represents McDougal.

In his statement, Broidy apologised to his wife and family while acknowledging that he 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 Cohen. He said that the lawyer “reached out to me after being contacted by this woman’s attorney, Keith Davidson,” and that he hired Cohen after Cohen “informed me about his prior relationship with Mr. Davidson.”

In fact, the contract in Broidy’s case included the same aliases that were used in the 2016 contract with Clifford — “David Dennison” and “Peggy Peterson” — according to a person familiar with it.

A spokesman for Davidson said he could not confirm or deny the details of the agreement. In a statement, Davidson said, “I’ve always acted in my client’s best interest, and appropriately in all matters.”

Cohen declined to comment.

Davidson’s relationship with Cohen forms part of the basis for a lawsuit McDougal has filed seeking to get out of her contract with AMI; The Enquirer never ran her story after buying it in August 2016.

In the lawsuit, she contends that 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 McDougal and the tabloid media company. The Times reported earlier this year that Cohen and Davidson discussed the deal the day before McDougal signed the contract.

Broidy was a national deputy chairman of the RNC’s finance committee, a title he shared with Cohen, who remains in that role. Broidy is the second member of that committee to resign this year amid questions involving their behaviour with women and deals to silence them. In January, 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.

Broidy was a major fund-raiser for former President George W. Bush, but he is particularly connected in 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 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, 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 UAE and urged Trump to fire Rex Tillerson, then the secretary of state, who the UAE believed was insufficiently tough on its rival Qatar.

The documents show that Broidy has worked closely with George Nader, an adviser to the UAE and a witness in the special counsel’s investigation, to help steer Trump administration policy on numerous issues in the Middle East. Robert Mueller, the special counsel, is examining Nader’s possible role in funnelling Emirati money to finance Trump’s political efforts. There is no indication that Mueller’s team is looking into Broidy.

In 2009, Broidy pleaded guilty to charges that he made nearly $1 million worth of illegal gifts to New York state officials 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.”


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