Newly unsealed documents from the investigation into Michael Cohen give a tick-tock of who Cohen was allegedly calling and messaging as he scrambled to pay off a porn star who claimed to have slept with Donald Trump. And one document, a warrant application, explicitly names the individuals whom the FBI believed were in contact with Cohen as the pay off was arranged.
The flurry of activity started after the Washington Post, on Oct. 7, 2016, released a 2005 tape of Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women. Cohen has since pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations associated with the payments to the porn star Stormy Daniels, while the Justice Department has concluded its investigation into who else was involved in the scheme.
Here are the additional people — besides President Trump himself — who were implicated in the search warrant application, which dates back to April 2018.
The unsealed docs note that Hope Hicks — the Trump campaign’s national press secretary — was on early October phone calls with Trump and Cohen, as Cohen put in motion the hush money payout scheme. The warrant stops short of saying whether the payoffs were discussed on any of the October calls Hicks specifically was on.
According to the warrant application, Cohen received a phone call from Hicks on October 8 — the first call between Cohen and Hicks in multiple weeks, the FBI said — and the FBI believed that Trump was patched in for a roughly four minute conversation. Cohen and Hicks spoke briefly on the phone again, the FBI alleged. Right after that call ended, Cohen spoke on the phone with other individuals — including AMI head David Pecker — who were key to the scheme to conceal Trump’s alleged affair with Daniels.
Hicks told investigators, according to a footnote in the application, that she was not aware of the affair allegations until November 2016. The footnote also says she was not specifically asked about the call the FBI believed included both Cohen and Trump.
Hicks made her next appearance in the documents on Nov. 4, as the Wall Street Journal was preparing a story on allegations of a payoff to Playboy model Karen McDougal, another woman who was rumored to have slept with Trump. McDougal, the Journal reported, was given a lucrative deal with the National Inquirer, which sat on her story.
Cohen and Hicks had several contacts in the lead-up to and after the Journal story’s publication, including a text exchange celebrating its lack of pick-up by other news outlets. Cohen told Hicks he was prepared to release a statement from Daniels contradicting “the other porn stars statement” if necessary.
American Media Inc. Execs
The FBI told the judge that executives at American Media Inc. — the parent company for National Enquirer — were in contact with Cohen as the scramble to pay off Daniels for her silence began.
Minutes after an Oct. 8 call with Hicks, Cohen called David Pecker, the chief executive of AMI, and they spoke repeatedly as Cohen was also contacted by AMI’s chief content officer Dylan Howard, according to the warrant application.
Howard and Cohen’s text exchanges continued in the following days, the FBI alleged, as Howard put Cohen in touch with Keith Davidson, the lawyer representing Daniels.
Cohen got in touch with Howard a week later, when Davidson allegedly threatened to blow up the pay-off agreement, according to the warrant application.
The FBI agent told the judge that he interpreted these messages to mean that Howard had tried to contact Davidson, but Davidson wasn’t taking Howard’s calls. Howard and Cohen stayed in touch, as word of Daniel’s alleged affair was leaked to TheSmokingGun.com on Oct. 18, according to the application.
Pecker was brought back into the fold around Oct. 25, as they tried to get the deal with Daniels back on track, according to the application
On Oct. 28, after the $130,00 payment had apparently gone through, according to the FBI, Cohen tried repeatedly to reach Pecker and Howard. He eventually heard back from Howard, who confirmed Davidson was “good,” according to the application.
That wasn’t the end of it for Pecker and Howard, who were contacted by Cohen in November, after the Wall Street Journal reached out about claims of a payoff to McDougal. McDougal, according to the FBI’s interpretation of the texts being cited, was being “difficult” about giving Davidson a statement.
The FBI interpreted a message from Cohen to Howard to mean that Trump was “pissed” about the forthcoming Journal story. Cohen later messaged Pecker that the “boss” had tried to call him, according to the application.
Then-Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway was not directly implicated by the FBI in Cohen’s contacts that appeared explicitly related to the payoffs. However, the warrant application noted a call from Cohen to Conway on Nov. 1. Cohen had received a statement, in the form of an audio recording, from Daniels disputing claims from another adult film star that the other star had had an affair with Trump, the FBI alleged. His call to Conway went unanswered, the FBI believed, but she called him back him back about 40 minutes later and they spoke for about six minutes, according to the application.
- -Hiring More Journalists
- -Providing free memberships to those who cannot afford them
- -Supporting independent, non-corporate journalism