Trump has always maintained that he did not have extramarital affairs with adult-film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal. He also said that he knew nothing about payments made to them to keep them quiet before the 2016 presidential campaign in which Trump won the presidency.
Cohen, who was Trump’s personal attorney, has contradicted Trump’s denials and he has pleaded guilty to buying the silence of McDougal and Daniels, both of whom say they had affairs with Trump before he became president.
All contributions to a candidate’s campaign for president must be properly reported on disclosure forms. By concealing these payments Cohen violated these federal laws.
Cohen said when he was sentenced that he was directed by the candidate — Trump himself — to carry out these acts. And according to the Journal, federal prosecutors have extensive evidence that Trump was indeed a central figure in coordinating the hush money schemes, despite his previous denials.
The report explains:
“Taken together, the accounts refute a two-year pattern of denials by Mr. Trump, his legal team and his advisers that he was involved in payoffs to Ms. McDougal and a former adult-film star. They also raise the possibility that the president of the United States violated federal campaign-finance laws.”
“The Wall Street Journal found that Mr. Trump was involved in or briefed on nearly every step of the agreements. He directed deals in phone calls and meetings with his self-described fixer, Michael Cohen, and others. The U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan has gathered evidence of Mr. Trump’s participation in the transactions.”
Here are three key details provided in the article:
Trump discussed the scheme with David Pecker
Pecker, who ran the National Enquirer offered to use the tabloid to pay off women for their silence. This shows Trump and Pecker had an understanding about hush money payments well before they actually happened. (Pecker has been given immunity to testify against Trump.)
Trump knew all about the Karen McDougal payment
After being contacted by McDougal’s lawyer in the summer of 2016, Pecker contacted Cohen and told him they could buy her silence. Cohen then told Trump, who approved the payment to McDougal.
Cohen says Trump told him to make the Stormy Daniels payment.
Pecker refused to get involved with this payment so in October of 2016 Cohen told Trump about it and he told him to “get it done.”
What It Means
Because Cohen pleaded guilty to charges in August, and because Donald Trump was involved in the same transactions, it appears that Trump can be charged with the same crimes as Cohen.
These are the two crimes to which Cohen pleaded guilty:
- Causing an unlawful corporate contribution to a federal campaign.
- Making an excessive campaign contribution to a federal campaign.
There appears to be ample evidence that Trump was personally involved in both of these payments. In fact, there is evidence that Trump actually made them happen by giving orders to Cohen, his underling. Which means Trump committed felonies.
What Happens Next
There are several directions that this investigation could now take.
- The president could be indicted for the same crimes as Cohen. This is unlikely at this time since there is a reluctance to indict sitting presidents.
- The president could be indicted for these crimes AFTER he leaves office.
- All evidence obtained by prosecutors could be turned over to Democrats who will be in charge of the House of Representatives in January. They could then use this evidence to bring charges against the president.
Nobody knows what will happen next with this investigation, or with the Mueller probe. However, it is increasingly clear that there is clear and convincing evidence that the president of the United States committed multiple felonies on his way to the White House.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.