In a first, pros­e­cu­tors con­nect Trump to a fed­eral crime

Business Standard - - WORLD - AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

The Jus­tice Depart­ment says that Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump di­rected il­le­gal pay­ments to buy the si­lence of two women whose claims of ex­tra­mar­i­tal af­fairs threat­ened his pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, the first time pros­e­cu­tors have con­nected Trump to a fed­eral crime.

In a court fil­ing , pros­e­cu­tors said for­mer Trump lawyer and fixer Michael Co­hen ar­ranged the se­cret pay­ments at the height of the 2016 cam­paign "in co­or­di­na­tion with and at the di­rec­tion of" Trump.

Co­hen has pre­vi­ously said Trump was in­volved in the hush-money scheme, but court doc­u­ments filed ahead of Co­hen's sen­tenc­ing made clear pros­e­cu­tors be­lieve Co­hen's claim. The fil­ing stopped short of ac­cus­ing the pres­i­dent of com­mit­ting a crime. Whether a pres­i­dent can be pros­e­cuted while in of­fice re­mains a mat­ter of le­gal dis­pute.

But there's no am­bi­gu­ity in Fri­day's fil­ing that pros­e­cu­tors be­lieve Co­hen's act was crim­i­nal and Trump was di­rectly in­volved, a re­mark­able dis­clo­sure with po­ten­tial political and le­gal ram­i­fi­ca­tions for a pres­i­dent dogged by in­ves­ti­ga­tions. The pay­ments are likely to be­come a tar­get for House Democrats gear­ing up to in­ves­ti­gate the pres­i­dent next year.

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