As Trump runs around the country on a victory lap yelling “no collusion” (and no one knows whether or not that is true yet), the other investigations into Trump’s alleged criminal behavior, including the illegal hush money paid to his former mistresses, continues.
Investigators probing payments to women alleging affairs with President Trump gathered more evidence than previously known, including from his inner circle https://t.co/GfEW0OM325
— The Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) April 10, 2019
Investigators have reportedly gathered interviews and other evidence from members of Trump’s inner circle, including his former personal assistant and White House communications director Hope Hicks and his longtime personal bodyguard, Keith Schiller. The questions centered around payments made to adult film actress Stephanie Clifford (aka Stormy Daniels) and Playboy model Karen McDougal.
According to the Wall Street Journal:
‘They asked Ms. Hicks about her contacts with Mr. Pecker, the CEO of American Media, publisher of the National Enquirer…Prosecutors also asked at least one other witness whether Ms. Hicks had coordinated with anyone at American Media concerning a Journal article on Nov. 4, 2016—days before the election—that revealed American Media had paid $150,000 for the rights to former Playboy model Karen McDougal‘s story of an alleged affair with Mr. Trump. The National Enquirer never ran an article about her allegations, a practice known in the tabloid world as “catch and kill.”’
"I can’t believe that somebody who is caught writing hush-money checks to adult-film actresses is the kind of person you want to be leading this nation," South Bend Mayor @PeteButtigieg said of evangelical support for Trump. #PornStarPresidencyhttps://t.co/niLrkf3oNC
— Democratic Coalition (@TheDemCoalition) April 7, 2019
Trump insists that the payments were not illegal, as they did not come from campaign funds. That’s not really how it works. In fact, any money spent by Trump or on his behalf that served to benefit his campaign is considered a campaign donation. Trump was caught on tape director his former attorney and personal “fixer” Michael Cohen to pay Clifford the hush money, preferably in cash to keep it quiet. Cohen instead used his own money and the Trump Organization reimbursed him. The problem is that no one reported any of this.
The National Enquirer also used a process called “catch and kill” on Trump’s behalf, paying McDougal for exclusive rights to her story and then refusing to run it. Trump’s former bodyguard appears to have inside information about these payments.
‘Mr. Schiller served as security chief for the Trump Organization for more than a decade before joining the White House as director of Oval Office Operations. He left in September 2017…Investigators were aware he had spoken by phone to Mr. Pecker, and they wanted to know if Mr. Schiller ever handed the phone to Mr. Trump.’
MORE: Prosecutors have examined discrepancies between Trump Org CFO Allen Weisselberg's account to prosecutors and Michael Cohen’s. Cohen told prosecutors Weisselberg was more involved in the Stormy payment than Weisselberg indicated. https://t.co/q7Bb7SNcpl
— Rebecca Ballhaus (@rebeccaballhaus) April 10, 2019
The report from Special Counsel Robert Mueller in his investigation into collusion and obstruction of justice is not yet public and the scandal is not yet over, but it’s not the only scandal Trump should worry about. Evidence of the hush money payments, Trump’s knowledge of and blatant lies about them, and that recorded phone call have implicated Trump in yet another criminal scheme.
‘The prosecutors’ campaign-finance investigation is based on the theory that the secret payments to keep women quiet were illegal contributions, because they were intended to influence the election. New details of the investigation—gleaned from interviews with 20 people familiar with the probe and from nearly 1,000 pages of court documents—show prosecutors had gathered information about Mr. Trump’s alleged involvement in the payments weeks before Mr. Cohen asserted it in open court.’
Trump may have committed multiple criminal offenses through his hush money payment to Stormy Daniels. pic.twitter.com/yPoBTEUdGl
— Citizens for Ethics (@CREWcrew) April 1, 2019