WSJ: Evidence shows Trump played role in hush money payments

A report by The Wall Street Journal says federal prosecutors have gathered evidence that shows President Donald Trump played a central role in hush money payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal. CNN's MJ Lee reports.

Posted: Nov 11, 2018 6:10 PM
Updated: Nov 11, 2018 6:15 PM

Federal prosecutors prepared a detailed 80-page indictment against Michael Cohen that outlined President Donald Trump's role in directing payments to women to keep quiet about alleged affairs, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

The report adds new details to Cohen's comments in court when he pleaded guilty in August, in which he said the payments to the women were coordinated with Trump.

Trump was involved in or briefed on nearly every step of the payments that were made to former Playboy model Karen McDougal and adult film actress Stephanie Clifford, who goes by the stage name Stormy Daniels, to keep quiet about their alleged affairs with Trump, the Journal reported, and the US Attorney's office in Manhattan gathered information about Trump's participation.

The transactions may have violated campaign finance laws.

The 22-page document prosecutors ultimately filed against Cohen alleged that he coordinated with one or more members of the Trump campaign. In court, Cohen admitted that "in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office," he kept information that would have harmed Trump from becoming public during the 2016 election cycle.

Prosecutors had prepared a draft indictment of Cohen that was more detailed and included additional charges, people familiar with the investigation have told CNN.

The indictment was sent to the Justice Department in anticipation of charging Cohen, a person familiar the matter said. But negotiations between Cohen and prosecutors then began in earnest and they negotiated a plea deal. Prosecutors never filed the indictment and Cohen pleaded guilty to a court filing containing fewer charges.

The Journal report adds new details about how Trump was involved.

Trump met in August 2015 at Trump Tower with David Pecker, the CEO of American Media, who offered to use the National Enquirer to buy the silence of women who might try to publicize sexual affairs with Trump, according to the Journal. The criminal filing from prosecutors described the meeting in vague terms, but didn't go into detail.

During the campaign, Trump asked Pecker to stop McDougal from telling her story, and Pecker's company paid $150,000 to the former Playboy model. Then in October 2016, Cohen paid $130,000 to Daniels himself to keep her from going public about an affair with Trump.

The President lawyers declined to comment. Trump has previously denied both affairs.

Michael Avenatti, the lawyer representing Daniels, said the new developments vindicated his client.

"For over 8 months we have been battling Donald Trump and the lies he has told about his payment to my client. This is further vindication that we were right," Avenatti said.

"I think the President should be indicted," he added.

American Media declined to comment on the report.

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