Sanders says she doesn't know why Trump wrote Cohen a check for $35,000 in 2017

By Camilo Montoya-Galvez

/ CBS News

Sanders questioned on Trump payments to Cohen

In her first briefing since late January, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Monday she was not "aware" of why President Trump wrote a $35,000 check to his former personal attorney and fixer Michael Cohen in the summer of 2017.

"I'm not aware of those specific things," Sanders said after being asked by CBS News correspondent Paula Reid about the payment. Cohen told Congress he received the money as reimbursement for payments he made to women who alleged they had affairs with the president. He pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance law and is scheduled to start a three-year federal prison sentence in May.

Pressed by Reid, Sanders said the president has repeatedly denied breaking campaign finance laws. "I would refer you back to the president's comments," she said. "That's not something I'm a part of, and I would refer you to the president's outside counsel beyond his comments."

During his congressional testimony in late February, Cohen provided the House Committee on Oversight and Reform a copy of the $35,000 check he said the president made out to him from a personal bank account to pay off adult film star Stormy Daniels and make sure she did not disclose her alleged extramarital affair with Mr. Trump.

The president has repeatedly denied having any knowledge of the payments.

A check for $35,000 President Trump allegedly wrote to Michael Cohen in 2017. House Committee on Oversight and Reform

Sanders was also asked if the White House denies that the president is the "Individual 1" referenced in sentencing memos by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York. Last year, prosecutors said Cohen violated campaign finance laws "in coordination with and at the direction" of "Individual 1."

"I'm not going to comment on an ongoing case. That's not something I would be a part of at the White House," she replied, again referring reporters to Mr. Trump's personal legal team.

"What I can tell you is the president has stated his position and made it clear," Sanders added before leaving the White House briefing room podium.

First published on March 11, 2019 / 12:37 PM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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