FBI believed Trump was closely involved in hush-money scheme

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC NEWS)

 

The release of the previously redacted documents came one day after the judge in the case disclosed that prosecutors had concluded their probe into Cohen’s campaign finance crimes.
Image: US-POLITICS-INVESTIGATION-COHEN

Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, leaves the hearing room during a recess for lunch as he testifies before the House Oversight and Reform Committee in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill on Feb. 27, 2019.Mandel Ngan / AFP – Getty Images

Trump Was In The Room When Illegal Payments Were Being Discussed

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC NEWS)

 Ohio on July 18, 2016.John Taggart / Bloomberg via Getty Images file Dec. 13, 2018 / 3:41 PM ESTBy Tom Winter

Donald Trump was the third person in the room in August 2015 when his lawyer Michael Cohen and National Enquirer publisher David Pecker discussed ways Pecker could help counter negative stories about Trump’s relationships with women, NBC News has confirmed.

As part of a nonprosecution agreement disclosed Wednesday by federal prosecutors, American Media Inc., the Enquirer’s parent company, admitted that “Pecker offered to help deal with negative stories about that presidential candidate’s relationships with women by, among other things, assisting the campaign in identifying such stories so they could be purchased and their publication avoided.”

The “statement of admitted facts” says that AMI admitted making a $150,000 payment “in concert with the campaign,” and says that Pecker, Cohen and “at least one other member of the campaign” were in the meeting. According to a person familiar with the matter, the “other member” was Trump.

David Pecker attends an event in Paris in 2012.
David Pecker attends an event in Paris in 2012.Francois Durand / Getty Images

Trump was first identified as attending the meeting by The Wall Street Journal.

Daniel Goldman, an NBC News analyst and former assistant U.S. attorney said the agreement doesn’t detail what Trump said and did in the meeting. “But if Trump is now in the room, as early as August of 2015 and in combination with the recording where Trump clearly knows what Cohen is talking about with regarding to David Pecker, you now squarely place Trump in the middle of a conspiracy to commit campaign finance fraud.”

A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, which investigated Cohen’s hush-money payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, declined to comment.

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McDougal, a former Playboy Playmate, and her lawyers have said that the National Enquirer paid her $150,000 in August 2016 as part of a “catch-and-kill” strategy to keep the story from circulating publicly.

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When Cohen pleaded guilty to arranging the payments in August, he said he had done so “at the direction” of an unnamed candidate, and that a $150,000 payment prior to the 2016 election was “for the principal purpose of influencing” the election. The meeting between Cohen, Pecker and unnamed other parties to discuss suppressing stories was referenced in the criminal information document to which Cohen pleaded guilty. The document also refers to “at least one other member of the campaign” being present.

The statement of admitted facts says that AMI’s “principal purpose in making the payment was to suppress the woman’s story so as to prevent it from influencing the election.” Rudy Giuliani, a lawyer for the president, has said the payments were made to spare Trump’s family from embarrassment.

I never directed Michael Cohen to break the law. He was a lawyer and he is supposed to know the law. It is called “advice of counsel,” and a lawyer has great liability if a mistake is made. That is why they get paid. Despite that many campaign finance lawyers have strongly……

44K people are talking about thisTwitter Ads info and privacy

On Wednesday, Judge William Pauley sentenced Cohen to a total of 36 months behind bars, and three years of post-release supervision, for tax evasion, violating campaign finance law and other charges. The judge ordered him to pay almost $1.4 million in restitution and forfeit $500,000, while fining him $50,000 for lying to Congress. Cohen must turn himself in to start serving his sentence by March 6.

At his sentencing, Cohen said that “time and time again, I felt it was my duty to cover up [Trump’s] dirty deeds.”

President Trump tweeted after the sentencing that he “never directed Michael Cohen to break the law.”

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Tom Winter

Tom Winter is a producer and reporter for the NBC News Investigative Unit based in New York, covering crime, courts, terrorism, and financial fraud on the East Coast.

Draft indictment detailed Trump’s role in hush money scheme

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

WSJ: Draft indictment detailed Trump’s role in hush money scheme

(CNN) 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 an information 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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