Scoop: In September 2016, Trump lawyer Michael Cohen said no to buying the silence of Stormy Daniels. In October, after the “Access Hollywood” "grab-em" tape was released, he did a 180. Timing is a crucial link for U.S. prosecutors. https://t.co/X9tkf23zPP— JamesVGrimaldi (@JamesVGrimaldi) August 16, 2018
A Wall Street Journal report about President Donald Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen’s “hush money” payment to adult actress Stormy Daniels may put a huge dent in the Trump legal team’s timeline and reasoning for why the payment was made.
According to the WSJ report, a source familiar with the conversation said Cohen initially saw no reason to pay Daniels, to stay mum on an alleged affair with the POTUS, when the idea was proposed in September 2016 but only conceded to making a deal after the release of the now infamous “Access Hollywood tapes,” which allegedly feature the POTUS talking about grabbing women without their consent.
And if proven to be true, the timing of the payment could blow a huge hole in the claim that the $130,000 to Daniels was not a campaign-finance violation.
Cohen, whose home and offices were raided by the FBI in April, is now under a criminal investigation on whether he committed tax fraud and made illegal payments for the Trump campaign among other crimes.
And the payment to Daniels, and possibly other women, is the center of the investigation whether Cohen violated campaign-finance laws or that such payments should have been disclosed by the Trump campaign.
Cohen acknowledged making the payment to Daniels, to The New York Times in February, but he maintained neither the Trump organization nor the campaign had reimbursed him.
Trump, who had previously denied knowing anything about the $130,000 payment, conceded after his current lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, confirmed he reimbursed the money to Cohen in a bombshell interview.
According to Business Insider, Giuliani accused Cohen or his legal team of being the “source” in the WSJ report.
"I can't keep track of Michael's stories but if you believe him I have a beautiful bridge in lower Manhattan to sell you," Giuliani told Business Insider in a text message.
The prosecutors, in order to prove that the hush money, paid to Daniels, was an in-kind contribution to the Trump campaign would need to bring in evidence the payment was to help Trump get elected as president and not to save himself from embarrassment.
Cohen and Giuliani have both previously insisted that the “hush money” payment to Daniels was made to save the Trump family, especially Melania Trump, from embarrassment.
"These things get settled for sums of money in a non-disclosure agreement," Giuliani told Business Insider at the time. "These things would've happened whether there was a campaign or not. So, campaign finance laws don't apply. But if they do, it's been all reimbursed. [Trump] can donate unlimited amounts to his campaign. And he did. He donated $100 million or so."
However, if Cohen sought to use the hush money in an effort to save Trump’s political standing, the argument that the Daniels' payment did not violate campaign finance laws would be a little hard to make.
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