A top GOP fundraiser and prominent backer of President Trump stepped down from his Republican National Committee post Friday after revelations that Trump lawyer Michael Cohen arranged a $1.6 million settlement with a former Playboy model the donor had impregnated.
Los Angeles-based investor Elliott Broidy, who has been a top fundraiser for Trump and the party, issued a statement Friday acknowledging that he “had a consensual relationship” with the woman, who got pregnant. He said he retained Cohen after Trump’s personal lawyer told Broidy he had been contacted by the woman’s attorney.
“It is unfortunate that this personal matter between two consenting adults is the subject of national discussion just because of Michael Cohen’s involvement,” Broidy said in the statement.
RNC Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel said Friday afternoon that she had accepted Broidy’s resignation.
“Obviously, these developments are new to me,” she told CNN. “I have not heard of any of this. Elliott and I spoke earlier today and he tendered his resignation. He doesn’t want to be a distraction.”
McDaniel said she was going to “take a look” at the situation facing Cohen, who continues to hold a top fundraising position at the RNC. “I haven’t had a chance to do my due diligence,” McDaniel said, adding that she hoped to talk with Cohen in the near future.
Neither Cohen nor his lawyer responded to requests for comment on the settlement, which was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.
Cohen’s role in the secret deal is the latest unexpected twist in a sprawling drama involving top Trump associates. It deepens the scrutiny of the longtime Trump confidant, whose residences and office were raided by the FBI earlier this week.
Federal prosecutors revealed Friday that Cohen has been under criminal investigation for months and that they have empaneled a grand jury to probe his business dealings. Investigators are also examining his efforts to tamp down damaging stories about Trump during the 2016 campaign, according to people familiar with the case, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The case was originally referred to the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who is investigating Russia’s interference in the election.
Under terms of the deal negotiated by Cohen for Broidy, who is married, the woman with whom he had an affair is prohibited from talking about the relationship in exchange for payments to be made over a two-year period, according to a person familiar with the details. The deal also allowed the woman to keep the baby, determine paternity and seek child support if she chose to do so.
Cohen’s work on the Broidy settlement, struck in late 2017, came after he negotiated a deal in October 2016 agreeing to pay $130,000 to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels, who alleged that she had a sexual encounter with Trump a decade earlier.
Keith Davidson, the lawyer who represented Daniels at the time, also represented the Playboy model with whom Broidy had an affair.
Davidson declined to comment on the settlement. “I can’t confirm or deny the existence of such matters,” he said. “But I’ve always acted in my clients’ best interests and appropriately in all situations.”
“Mr. Cohen reached out to me after being contacted by this woman’s attorney, Keith Davidson,” Broidy said in his statement. “Although I had not previously hired Mr. Cohen, I retained Mr. Cohen after he informed me about his prior relationship with Mr. Davidson.”
Cohen and Broidy met during the 2016 campaign, when Broidy, a California native and major GOP donor, served as vice chairman of a joint fundraising effort between Trump and the RNC.
Until Friday, they both served as deputy national finance chairmen there. Last month, Broidy co-hosted a fundraiser for Trump’s reelection campaign in Los Angeles.
So far this cycle, Broidy and his wife have contributed $614,000 to Republican campaign committees and the RNC, campaign finance records show.
Broidy also serves on the board of the Republican Jewish Coalition, which remained steadfast in its support for Trump during the 2016 campaign, despite criticism from some Jewish leaders, who objected to the then-candidate’s retweet of a post widely viewed as anti-Semitic.
In the first year of the Trump administration, Broidy was an outspoken advocate at the White House and on Capitol Hill on Middle East issues, particularly the need for action against Qatar, a rival power of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.
Broidy worked with George Nader, a Lebanese American businessman and power broker in the region who has been working in recent years as an adviser for the UAE, according to people familiar with their relationship.
Nader is a witness in Mueller’s investigation.
In his statement, Broidy said he would “like to sincerely apologize to my wife and family for the hurt that I have caused.”
“I acknowledge I had a consensual relationship with a Playboy Playmate,” he said. “At the end of our relationship, this woman shared with me that she was pregnant. She alone decided that she did not want to continue with the pregnancy and I offered to help her financially during this difficult period. We have not spoken since that time.”
Peter K. Stris, an attorney for the woman, who has not been identified, said in a tweet that she had no comment.
The Broidy deal reveals new details about the relationship between Davidson, a celebrity lawyer in Los Angeles, and Cohen, Trump’s hard-charging fixer in New York.
In October 2016, Davidson negotiated with Cohen the confidentiality agreement for Daniels. Cohen, Daniels and Davidson signed the agreement.
Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, has sued to break the agreement, arguing that it is invalid because Trump failed to sign it. Cohen and Trump are seeking to force the matter out of court and into private arbitration, where proceedings are confidential.
Davidson and Cohen were also in communication about a third agreement involving former Playboy centerfold Karen McDougal, who was represented by Davidson at the time.
McDougal, who says she had a 10-month affair with Trump in 2006 and 2007, sold the rights to her story to the parent company of the National Enquirer for $150,000 in August 2016. She has said she understood that American Media (AMI) was buying her story not to publish it, but to bury it, in what has been called a “catch and kill” arrangement.
The day before she signed the contract, Davidson emailed Cohen and told him by phone that the deal was finalized, according to a person familiar with the conversation.
McDougal has sued to break free of her contract so she can speak freely, arguing that her story about Trump is “core political speech entitled to the highest protection under the law.” AMI has asked the judge to dismiss the case, arguing that the deal is protected under the First Amendment.
McDougal is currently represented by Stris, the attorney for the woman who had an affair with Broidy.
Alice Crites and Anu Narayanswamy contributed to this report.