President Trump’s alleged role in orchestrating hush money payments to Stormy Daniels during the 2016 presidential election has been well documented.
But a Wall Street Journal report out Tuesday sheds new light on how Trump personally managed damage control over the revelation of the payouts to the former adult film star—well into the second year of his presidency. Per the Journal, Trump used his own private real estate company and his own son to do so.
The report provides the latest evidence that Trump Organization officials, acting on order of their boss-turned-U.S. president, were intimately involved in making and covering up hush money payments to women who claimed to have had affairs with Trump. Federal and New York state authorities are currently investigating the structure and approval of those payments.
“I’ll take care of everything,” Trump said in February 2018, according to the Journal.
That reassurance to his then-lawyer, Michael Cohen, came a month after the newspaper first revealed that Cohen paid Daniels $130,000 in October 2016.
Contrast that to what Trump said in April, shortly after Cohen’s premises were raided by federal agents who seized documents related to the hush money payouts.
“This has nothing to do with me,” Trump told the “Fox & Friends” cast. “I’m not involved and I’ve been told I’m not involved.”
“Like with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal, he represented me and you know, from what I see, he did absolutely nothing wrong,” Trump said.
Cohen pleaded guilty in August to multiple counts of personal financial wrongdoing, as well as two counts of campaign finance violations related to the hush money payments. In open court, Cohen announced that he made them “at the direction” of Trump.
The Journal’s Tuesday report helps explain how the negotiations played out behind the scenes this spring.
In February, according to the Journal, Trump instructed Cohen to seek a restraining order against Daniels to keep her from speaking to the press. The plan was to pursue arbitration proceedings alleging that Daniels was violating her 2016 nondisclosure agreement by going public.
Per the Journal, Trump told Cohen to coordinate with his son, Eric, and Lawrence Rosen, an outside attorney who had worked with the Trump Organization previously. Jill Martin, a Trump Organization lawyer based in California, was tasked with signing off on the arbitration paperwork, according to the report.
But those involved have offered a remarkable argument to justify their behavior: that they were acting in their personal, rather than professional, capacity.
A “person close to the situation” told the Journal that Eric Trump was acting “as the president’s son” rather than a company executive while coordinating this legal response. Trump’s eldest sons are running the family business while their father serves in the Oval Office.
In March, the Trump Organization told the Journal that Martin, too, was acting in her “individual capacity” when she signed off on the arbitration paperwork.
That statement came out after Martin consulted with Eric Trump, Rosen, and Trump Organization chief legal officer Alan Garten about how best to respond.
“The company has had no involvement in the matter,” the March statement went on.
Ultimately, Daniels ignored the restraining order and went to the media about her alleged affair with Trump anyway.
But these covert machinations, reportedly carried out at Trump’s direction, may be of interest to law enforcement authorities working to get to the bottom of the hush money matter. The Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s office is probing whether Trump Organization officials violated campaign finance laws. The Manhattan District Attorney’s is looking into whether those company officials committed fraud by falsifying records related to those payments.
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