President Trump was personally involved in arranging hush money to a porn star and a Playboy centerfold despite his repeated denials that he was aware of the details, according to a bombshell report published Friday.
The future president met with his longtime friend David Pecker, publisher of the National Enquirer, at Trump Tower in August 2015 and asked Pecker how the publisher could help his campaign, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Pecker, head of American Media, the tabloid’s parent company, offered to use his National Enquirer to buy the silence of women if they tried to publicize alleged affairs with Trump, the paper reported, citing information discovered by federal prosecutors in Manhattan.
Less than a year later, Trump asked Pecker to quash the story of former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who said they’d had an affair in 2006, when Trump was married to his third wife, Melania.
AMI soon paid $150,000 to McDougal to shut her up — and Trump later thanked him for his help, the paper reported.
The report provides a blow-by-blow account of the negotiations that led to that payoff and another to porn vixen Stormy Daniels based on testimony of Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, and interviews with “three dozen people who have direct knowledge of the events or who have been briefed on them, as well as court papers, corporate records and other documents,” the paper reported.
Cohen, who implicated Trump when the lawyer pleaded guilty to eight federal charges in August, has met with investigators for special counsel Robert Mueller and with federal prosecutors in New York, seeking to provide information that could result in a lighter punishment at his sentencing, which is scheduled for Dec. 12.
He told the feds he spoke with Trump in the weeks before the 2016 election about paying Daniels to keep quiet about her allegations of a sexual encounter with Trump at a charity golf outing, also in 2006.
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He told them that Trump urged him to “get it done,” and that he later made a $130,000 payment himself because Pecker had refused, and that he was later reimbursed — with a bonus — by the Trump Organization.
The Journal reported that Trump was involved in or briefed on nearly every step of the payoffs, directing the deals in phone calls and meetings with Cohen and others.
The president has repeatedly denied having affairs with McDougle and Daniels, calling them liars.
He at first said he knew nothing of the payments before belatedly disclosing that Cohen was reimbursed for Daniels’ payment in a federal financial disclosure form.
On Thursday, the White House referred questions about Trump’s involvement in the hush deals to the president’s outside counsel Jay Sekulow, who declined to comment.
Trump’s involvement in the payments, by itself, wouldn’t mean he is guilty of federal crimes, Richard Hasen, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine, who specializes in election law, told the paper.
A criminal conviction would require proof that Trump willfully ignored legal bans on contributions from companies or individuals larger than $2,700, he said.
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