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Trump involved in 'nearly every step' of hush-money payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal: WSJ

Kevin Breuninger | Dan Mangan 5 months ago
Trump involved in 'nearly every step' of hush-money payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal: WSJ

Trump has denied knowing about a $130,000 payment made to Stormy Daniels, an adult film star and director who alleges she had sex with Trump in 2006.

Daniels is currently suing Trump and Michael Cohen, his former personal attorney, in connection with a nondisclosure agreement barring her from discussing the alleged tryst. Trump has denied he had sex with Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford.

Cohen pleaded guilty in August to campaign-finance violations, and admitted that he made payments to two women at the direction of a candidate for political office. The payments were made to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, Cohen said.

Cohen's lawyer, Lanny Davis, said at the time that "Donald Trump directed [Cohen] to commit a crime by making payments to two women for the principal purpose of influencing an election."

Davis did not immediately respond to CNBC's inquiry about the Journal's story.

The Journal reported that Trump, as a presidential candidate, "directed deals in phone calls and meetings" related to the women with Cohen. The U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan, which prosecuted Cohen, has reportedly also collected evidence of Trump's involvement in the agreements.

Daniels' lawyer, Michael Avenatti, told CNBC that the Journal's report "confirms what we have been saying all along."

Neither the White House, nor Trump's lawyer Jay Sekulow, immediately returned CNBC's requests for comment on the report.

The Journal's story begins with an anecdote about Trump meeting with his friend, American Media chief executive David Pecker, in Trump Tower in New York City in 2015.

The report said Trump asked Pecker what he could do to help Trump's presidential campaign.

Pecker than offered to have his supermarket tabloid newspaper, The National Enquirer, "buy the silence of woman if they tried to publicize sexual encounters with Mr. Trump," The Journal reported.

Pecker's company later paid a Playboy model, Karen McDougal, $150,000 in return for her story. The Journal said that payment was made after "Mr. Trump asked Mr. Pecker to quash" McDougal's story.

McDougal was freed from her own nondisclosure contract with American Media in April, following a lawsuit in which she claimed that Pecker's company misled her about the terms of the agreement.

Trump's role in arranging the payoffs to Daniels and McDougal were detailed in an indictment that federal prosecutors in Manhattan were preparing to file against Cohen at the time he pleaded guilty.

Cohen since his guilty plea has met with prosecutors in Manhattan as well as with investigators from the office of special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating the Trump campaign's possibly collusion with Russians.

"Mr. Cohen has also described to prosecutors his discussions with Mr. Trump and a Trump Organization executive about how to pay Ms. Clifford without leaving the candidate's fingerprints on the deal," the Journal article said.

Under campaign finance law, companies and individuals are barred from contributing more than $2,700 to a federal candidate. And donations of any kind must be disclosed.

Read the full report from The Wall Street Journal.

This story is developing. Please check back for updates.