Stormy Daniels' $130,000 Payoff Could Be Illegal Campaign Contribution

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Adult film star Stormy Daniels alleges she had an affair with President Donald Trump, but the focus is rapidly shifting away from the affair and toward the cover-up.

Michael Cohen

When President Donald Trump's lawyer, Michael Cohen, paid $130,000 in "hush money" to adult film actress Stormy Daniels, it may have amounted to an illegal contribution from the Trump campaign.

Speculation about this possibility had already been circulating in the media in recent weeks, but in an interview with "60 Minutes" on Sunday, former Federal Elections Commission chairman Trevor Potter put a finer point on it.

Potter, who served as an FEC chairman under President George H.W. Bush, said the payout potentially represented  an “illegal, in-kind contribution.”

Just days before the 2016 presidential election, Cohen made the payment to Daniels in return for her silence about her alleged affair with Trump. Cohen has admitted to the payment but insisted it came out of his pocket, not Trump's.

If that's the case, it places the campaign finance violation on Cohen. But Daniels' lawyer, Michael Avenatti, has documents showing the payment was sent to Cohen at Trump Tower and communicated through his official Trump Organization email — possibly proving the payment to Daniels was made on behalf of Trump.

“It’s a $130,000 in-kind contribution by Cohen to the Trump campaign, which is about $126,500 above what he's allowed to give,” Potter said. “If he does this on behalf of his client, the candidate, that is a coordinated, illegal, in-kind contribution by Cohen for the purpose of influencing the election, of benefiting the candidate by keeping this secret.”

Potter's interview means the saga of Daniels is quickly shifting away from the salacious porn star affair itself and toward an even more sticky problem for the Trump administration: the cover-up. 

In that vein, a more heinous — although less substantiated — allegation comes from Daniels' "60 Minutes" interview in which she described being approached by a man in a parking lot who threatened her to keep silent about the Trump affair.

"I was in a parking lot, going to a fitness class with my infant daughter. Taking, you know, the seats facing backwards in the backseat, diaper bag, you know, gettin’ all the stuff out. And a guy walked up on me and said to me, 'Leave Trump alone. Forget the story.' And then he leaned around and looked at my daughter and said, 'That’s a beautiful little girl. It’d be a shame if something happened to her mom.' And then he was gone." 

Daniels said she didn't know who the man was, but she said she would recognize him if she saw him. Meanwhile, Cohen vehemently denies connection to the incident and is alleging her implicating him amounts to defamation. 

Media has a way of taking insignificant problems and making them seem bigger. But as this story shifts from sex and lies to illegal payments and mob-style threats, this media circus may be stumbling onto something more substantial. 

 

Banner and thumbnail credit: Handout via Reuters

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