Donald Trump was directly involved in arranging payments to silence former lovers Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, despite months of denials, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.
The Journal, in an extensive report, found that Trump was “involved in or briefed on nearly every step of the agreements” to provide hush money to McDougal, a former Playboy Playmate, and Daniels, an adult film actress.
The Journal, which interviewed some “three dozen people” for the piece, as well as reviewing court papers, business records, and other documents, wrote that the president…
“… 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.”
The revelation draws the president deeper into a long running scandal that has dogged his presidency, and also “raise[s] the possibility that Trump violated federal campaign-finance laws,” The Journal reported.
The White House, for its part, repeatedly has dismissed as ridiculous any suggestion that the president was involved in making such payments.
But Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer, admitted to paying Daniels $130,000 in a hush payment in the weeks leading up to the 2016 election.
Since pleading guilty to various campaign finance violences in August, Cohen has been cooperating with prosecutors, as part of a much broader obstruction of justice probe. Cohen has implicated Trump in the hush money payments.
The Journal and other news outlets have reported that in making the payoffs, Trump also coordinated closely with a longtime friend, AMI publisher David Pecker, who now also is speaking to prosecutors.
McDougal, who says she had an affair with Donald Trump in 2006 and 2007, sold exclusive rights to her account of the tryst to AMI, the parent company of the National Enquirer for $150,000. The tabloid promptly buried the story.
Daniels claims her affair with Trump started just months after First Lady Melania Trump gave birth to the couple’s son Barron in 2006. Her attorney, Michael Avenatti, tweeted on Friday that the Journal article proves the veracity of his client’s claims.
This further confirms what we have been saying and alleging for months. There can be no question now as to the validity of our allegations. I look forward to the apologies directed at my honest and heroic client @StormyDaniels.https://t.co/2WsR37wbag
— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) November 9, 2018
Federal election law limits campaign contributions — including any payments that could be construed to help a candidate running for office — to $2,700, a sum much smaller than the payments made to Daniels and McDougal.
The Journal on Thursday sought comment from the White House, which referred questions about Mr. Trump’s involvement in the hush money deals to the president’s outside counsel Jay Sekulow. The newspaper said Sekulow declined to respond.