Re­port points to Trump’s role in hush money pay­ments

‘STORMY’ AF­FAIR In­dict­ment fo­cuses on pay­outs made to women to keep quiet about al­leged af­fairs

Hindustan Times (Delhi) - - CORPORATE BUZZ - HT Cor­re­spon­dent let­ters@hin­dus­tan­times.com

WASH­ING­TON: US Pres­i­dent Donald Trump played a cen­tral role in pay­ments to two women to keep quiet about their al­leged sex­ual en­coun­ters with him in the run-up to the 2016 elec­tion and knew of every de­vel­op­ment, con­trary to ear­lier claims of not know­ing any­thing about them, ac­cord­ing to a re­port.

Trump per­son­ally asked David Pecker, a long-time friend and chief ex­ec­u­tive of Amer­i­can Me­dia, to quash a story that for­mer Play­boy model Karen Mcdou­gal was hawk­ing about her al­leged af­fair with him al­most a decade ago, The Wall Street Jour­nal re­ported on Fri­day. She was paid $150,00 for her story, which never ran.

Later, Trump per­son­ally di­rected a pay­off to Stormy Daniels, a porn star whose real name is Stephanie Clif­ford.

The Jour­nal de­scribed a meet­ing be­tween Trump and Pecker in his Trump Tower of­fice in Au­gust 2015, weeks af­ter an­nounc­ing his run for the Repub­li­can ticket for the White House. Trump had asked the pub­lisher how he could help the cam­paign, and Pecker of­fered to use his pub­li­ca­tion, the Na­tional En­quirer, to quash claims of af­fairs by women. Trump took up that of­fer a year later.

Trump was in­volved in every dis­cus­sion and kept track of de­vel­op­ments through phone calls and meet­ings, di­rectly or in­di­rectly, with his per­sonal at­tor­ney and fixer Michael Cohen. The at­tor­ney for the south­ern district of New York, which has pros­e­cuted Cohen for wire fraud and elec­tion fi­nance law vi­o­la­tions, has gath­ered ev­i­dence of Trump’s al­leged par­tic­i­pa­tion in th­ese pay­offs.

Trump has de­nied hav­ing an af­fair with both women and had at first also de­nied any knowl­edge of hush money pay­ments to them. But as the case un­folded, with Cohen fully co­op­er­at­ing with in­ves­ti­ga­tors, Trump and his lawyers have con­firmed the pay­offs.

He has not been named in court fil­ings and in­dict­ments re­gard­ing the case against Cohen — who pleaded guilty to wire fraud and cam­paign fi­nance law vi­o­la­tions and is await­ing sen­tenc­ing — but Trump’s al­leged role has been de­tailed. In Cohen’s in­dict­ment, pros­e­cu­tors said the for­mer at­tor­ney “co­or­di­nated with one or more mem­bers of the cam­paign, in­clud­ing through meet­ings and phone calls, about the fact, na­ture, and tim­ing of the pay­ments”.

The uniden­ti­fied cam­paign mem­ber is un­der­stood to be Trump.

A sit­ting pres­i­dent can­not be in­dicted, un­der cur­rent jus­tice depart­ment guide­lines, and Trump’s al­leged in­volve­ment in the pay­ments are not by them­selves a crime. Wil­fully skirt­ing cam­paign fi­nance laws, how­ever, is, if it is proven.

TRUMP SLAMS YET AN­OTHER RE­PORTER

Trump in­structed jour­nal­ists on Fri­day to show more re­spect in the “sa­cred” White House and mo­ments later an­grily re­fused to an­swer a re­porter’s ques­tion be­cause it was “stupid”.

The lat­est clash be­tween the pres­i­dent and the press corps as­signed to cover him and the White House fol­lowed a melt­down on Wed­nes­day when Trump lashed out at a star CNN re­porter as a “ter­ri­ble per­son” and had him barred from the White House.

In Fri­day’s in­ci­dent, Abby Phillip, also from CNN, asked Trump whether he wanted his new at­tor­ney gen­eral to hold back an ex­plo­sive probe into al­le­ga­tions that the pres­i­dent’s 2016 elec­tion cam­paign col­luded with Rus­sian agents.

The topic has been one of the main head­lines in Wash­ing­ton since Wed­nes­day when Trump abruptly fired Jeff Ses­sions as at­tor­ney gen­eral and named Matthew Whi­taker, who has strongly crit­i­cised the Rus­sia probe, to re­place him. Crit­ics have ac­cused Trump of plac­ing an ally who will try to muz­zle spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Trump, speak­ing just be­fore leav­ing for a gather­ing in Paris to com­mem­o­rate World War I, re­fused to an­swer Phillip.

“What a stupid ques­tion that is, what a stupid ques­tion. But I watch you a lot. You ask a lot of stupid ques­tions,” he said, shak­ing a fin­ger at the jour­nal­ist, then walk­ing away.

Ear­lier, he de­fended his de­ci­sion to bar CNN re­porter Jim Acosta fol­low­ing their ex­change at Wed­nes­day’s press con­fer­ence, say­ing that Acosta “is a very un­pro­fes­sional guy”.

Asked how long Acosta will be de­nied per­mis­sion to en­ter the White House, Trump said he hadn’t de­cided and the sanction could be ap­plied to “other jour­nal­ists”.

AFP

File pho­tos of Stormy Daniels (left) and Karen Mcdou­gal, who are named in the re­port.

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