The Wall Street Journal has found that President Trump has spent two years lying about the central role he played in cash payoffs to both an adult film star and a Playboy model.

As a presidential candidate in August 2015, Trump huddled with a longtime friend, media executive David Pecker, who offered to use his National Enquirer tabloid to buy the silence of women if they tried to publicize alleged sexual encounters with Trump.

Less than a year later, Trump asked Pecker to quash the story of a former Playboy model who said they’d had an affair.

Pecker’s company soon paid $150,000 to the model, Karen McDougal, to keep her from speaking publicly about it. Trump later thanked Pecker for the assistance.

Almost weekly bogus stories on the front page of the National Enquirer helped the Trump campaign.

In addition, at the request of Pecker, the National Enquirer printed bogus stories about Hillary Clinton on behalf of Trump, which were sold at grocery and drug stores across America during the election year.

The Trump Tower meeting and its aftermath are among several previously unreported instances in which Trump intervened directly to suppress stories about his alleged sexual encounters with women, according to 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.

Taken together, the accounts refute a two-year pattern of denials by Trump, his legal team and his advisers that he was involved in payoffs to 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 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 Trump’s participation in the transactions.

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.

In an Oct. 23 interview with the Journal, Trump declined to address whether he had ever discussed the payments with Cohen during the campaign.

In August, Federal prosecutors outlined Trump’s role—without specifically naming him—in a roughly 80-page draft federal indictment they had been preparing to file against Cohen.

When Cohen pleaded guilty that month to campaign-finance violations, prosecutors filed a 22-page charging document asserting that Cohen “coordinated with one or more members of the campaign, including through meetings and phone calls, about the fact, nature, and timing of the payments.”

Donald Trump and adult film star Stormy Daniels in 2005.

The unnamed campaign member or members referred to Trump, according to people familiar with the document.

The revelations about Trump’s involvement in the hush-money deals come as Special Counsel Robert Mueller continues his probe into Russian electoral interference, and as a newly elected Democratic majority in the House of Representatives has signaled its intention to investigate the Trump administration when it takes power.

Manhattan federal prosecutors who investigated Cohen are now examining business dealings by the Trump Organization.

Cohen, who implicated the president in his crimes when he pleaded guilty in August, has met with investigators for Mueller and with federal prosecutors in New York, seeking to provide information that could mitigate his sentence, which is scheduled for Dec. 12.

He told federal prosecutors he conferred with Trump in the weeks before the 2016 election about paying Stephanie Clifford, the former adult-film star known professionally as Stormy Daniels, to keep quiet about her allegations of a sexual encounter with Trump.

He told them that Mr. Trump urged him to “get it done.”

 

Attribution:The Wall Street Journal
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