The Manhattan district attorney’s office is considering pursuing criminal charges against the Trump Organization and two senior company officials in connection with Michael D. Cohen’s hush money payment to an adult film actress, according to two officials with knowledge of the matter.
A state investigation would center on how the company accounted for its reimbursement to Mr. Cohen for the $130,000 he paid to the actress, Stephanie Clifford, who has said she had an affair with President Trump, the officials said.
Both officials stressed that the office’s review of the matter is in its earliest stages and prosecutors have not yet made a decision on whether to proceed.
State charges against the company or its executives could be significant because Mr. Trump has talked about pardoning some of his current or former aides who have faced federal charges. As president, he has no power to pardon people and corporate entities convicted of state crimes.
Who did approve that payment? Surely nobody with the last name of “Trump.”
UPDATE: Nope, it’s someone with the last name of “Weisselberg.” And he got immunity.
Michael Cohen had many reasons to play ball last weekend when his legal team sat down to talk to federal prosecutors.
The Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s office had testimony from Mr. Cohen’s accountant and business partners, along with bank records, tax filings and loan applications that implicated not only Mr. Cohen in potential criminal activity, but also his wife, who filed taxes jointly with her husband. Prosecutors signaled Mr. Cohen would face nearly 20 criminal counts, potentially carrying a lengthy prison sentence and staggering financial penalties.
Adding to the pressure, David Pecker, the chairman of American Media Inc., which publishes the National Enquirer, provided prosecutors with details about payments Mr. Cohen arranged with women who alleged sexual encounters with President Trump, including Mr. Trump’s knowledge of the deals.
They don’t explicitly say “advance” knowledge here, but that is certainly a strong possibility. Think about it. Do we truly believe that, in all the evidence that the feds seized from Cohen, they uncovered nothing to demonstrate advance knowledge? Gabriel Malor has a good explainer about the Cohen plea here, and this passage caught my attention:
Here, Trump says he did not even know of the payments until after the fact. Cohen counters that he made both deals under Trump’s express orders. Federal prosecutors would not have let Cohen plead guilty to facts that they did not believe to be true, so presumably there is additional evidence on this point that has not been made public yet. Keep in mind that Cohen has already released one recording of a conversation he had with Trump about paying McDougal, although that payment ultimately came from American Media Inc., not Cohen or Trump.
Ah, well. Trump’s taking it all in stride. He’s a chill customer — a cool cucumber, who displays grace under press– hey what’s this?
Dude, it’s 1:10 am in Washington D.C. Go the ^&(&* to sleep.
(I’m one to talk. I woke up in the middle of the night sneezing and gave up at about 3:30 a.m. and just decided to go ahead and get up, so that my wife wouldn’t have to listen to my sniffling and sneezing any more. Maybe Mr. The Donald was having a similar problem!) (Except that the chances Melania sleeps with him — literally or figuratively — are vanishingly small.)
Yeah, I think that “Individual 1” seems worried. And not without some reason.
Gabriel’s column answers a lot of questions you might have about the Cohen plea, including the “why is it a crime” question:
Federal law generally prohibits corporations from making contributions or expenditures in connection with any election to federal office. Here, Cohen induced such a prohibited payment from American Media Inc. for the express purpose of influencing the election. By structuring the payment this way, Cohen also avoided having the payment show up in the campaign’s FEC filings.
Put another way, American Media Inc was contributing illegally to Trump’s election, and Cohen’s payment structure deprived the American public of information it was legally entitled to about a candidate for public office.
With respect to the second charge, federal law generally prohibits individuals from contributing more than $2,700 to a candidate (for the 2016 election cycle). Contributions include “expenditures made by any person in cooperation, consultation, or concert with, or at the request or suggestion of, a candidate.” Here, Cohen made an expenditure well outside the $2,700 limit when he paid Daniels with the intent to influence the election and at the request of Trump.
Like the first campaign crime, by structuring the payment this way, Cohen (and Trump, if Cohen and federal prosecutors are to be believed) engaged in a conspiracy to defraud the public by hiding the payment despite mandatory disclosure laws.
I know it seems like nothing can touch this guy, but these payments were made just after the Access Hollywood tape broke — and that (in case you have forgotten) was what Joe Biden would call a Big $(^%*($& Deal. Trump even apologized for it, for God’s sake. If it then became public that he had slept with a porn star and a Playboy Playmate while married, it could have been a problem for him. In any event, the theory is that the public has a right to know about such payments, when they are made to influence a campaign. And according to Cohen (and possibly other evidence), they were.
I’m not sure if I’ve pointed it out yet, but this seems like a good time to mention this: remember the Cohen recording that has been released? (You can listen to it again here.) The recording starts with Trump talking on the phone to someone, and Cohen praising him for a “great poll.” But then Cohen starts talking about a New York Times effort to unseal his divorce records with Ivana. Trump yells at someone to get him a Coke, opines that the effort won’t be successful (Cohen agrees), and then this exchange happens at 1:58:
TRUMP: All you have to do is delay it for…
COHEN: Even after that, it’s never going to be opened.
Clearly, they’re talking about the election here. And moments later is when Cohen talks about the transfer regarding “our friend David” and Trump’s worry that “maybe he gets hit by a truck.”
It’s all about the election, and their pre-existing agreement with David Pecker that the story wasn’t going to run and that Pecker would be reimbursed. Here is Cohen telling the judge about it:
You can tell me all you like that you don’t care. Sure, it’s a violation of federal law. Who cares? The thing is, if there’s a blue wave, Democrats could retake the House. And then, I suspect, they are going to be all:
Meanwhile, Trump keeps talking like a mob boss. In his new interview with Ainsley “Communist Japan” Earhardt, Trump says that it “almost” should be illegal for people to receive deals to testify:
This whole thing about flipping, they call it. I know all about flipping, for 30, 40 years I have been watching flippers. Everything is wonderful and then they get 10 years in jail and they flip on whoever the next highest one is, or as high as you can go. It almost ought to be outlawed. It’s not fair, because if somebody going to spend five years like Michael Cohen or 10 of 15 years in jail because of a taxicab deal, because he defrauded some bank. Campaign violations are considered not a big deal, frankly. But if somebody defrauded a bank and he is going to get 10 years in jail or 20 years in jail but if you can say something bad about Donald Trump and you will go down to two years or three years, which is the deal he made, in all fairness to him, most people are going to do that. And I have seen it many times. I have had many friends involved in this stuff. It’s called flipping and it almost ought to be illegal. You get 10 years in jail. But if you say bad things about somebody, in other words make up stories, they just make up lies…They make up things and now they go from 10 years to they’re a national hero. They have a statue erected in their honor. It’s not a fair thing.
The hidden assumption here, of course, is that Cohen got a deal to testify. Which he didn’t. But since when do things like facts get in the way of Donald Trump word salads?
So yeah, Donald. Just keep repeating “NO COLLUSION” and “WITCH HUNT” to anyone who will listen.
The thing about this “witch hunt” is that some witches have been caught. And the Wall Street Journal article linked above reminds us of a fun tidbit about Michael Cohen:
Initially, Mr. Cohen seemed unlikely to turn on the president. Although their relationship was at times turbulent, Mr. Trump appreciated Mr. Cohen’s absolute loyalty. On the day of the raids, Mr. Trump called the move a “disgrace” and a “witch hunt.”
Huh. And now Mr. Cohen has pled guilty to eight felonies, and implicated the President of the United States as his co-conspirator in federal felonies.
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