In a first, prosecutors connect Trump to a federal crime
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.