A lengthy, tour de force report in the Wall Street Journal goes into new detail on President Trump’s knowledge of and involvement in hush money payments offered to two women — ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal and porn star Stormy Daniels — to keep quiet about alleged sexual encounters they had with Trump.
According to the report, prosecutors have obtained evidence showing then-candidate Trump’s role in transactions that allegedly violated campaign finance law. Some of that evidence has come through the cooperation of Trump’s former fixer, Michael Cohen and in documents obtained in FBI raids of Cohen’s home, office and hotel room last April.
Among the new anecdotes revealed by the Wall Street Journal:
- In 2015 after announcing his presidential run, Trump met with AMI CEO David Pecker — a longtime friend whose company owned the National Enquirer — and asked him how Pecker could help the campaign. Pecker, according to the Journal, offered to use the magazine to kill the stories of women who sought to come forward with allegations about affairs with Trump.
- When McDougal was thinking in May 2016 about going public about her alleged affair with Trump, her attorney Keith Davidson reached out to an executive at AMI, according to the Journal. The exec and Pecker then tipped off Cohen, who in turn told Trump, prompting Trump to call Pecker for assistance.
- Trump was kept up to speed about developments in the McDougal situation, which included AMI first refusing to buy her story for that much because she didn’t have documents backing it up, but then offering her the $150,000 contract because she was also in talks with ABC News about coming forward.
- Pecker studied campaign finance law as his company negotiated buying the rights to McDougal’s story, according to the Wall Street Journal:
- It was Pecker who called off an agreement discussed by Cohen and Trump to buy the rights to McDougal story from AMI, the Journal reported. Pecker, who was advised by his attorney not to go through with the deal, told Cohen to tear up the agreement, according to the Wall Street Journal.
- When Pecker was visiting Trump in early 2017 during the transition, Trump thanked him for killing the McDougal story, the Wall Street Journal reported.
- Pecker had also been asked by Cohen to buy off Daniels’ story, but refused because, according to the Journal, “he didn’t want his company to pay a porn star.”
- Cohen told Trump in mid-October 2016 that they would have to handle it themselves, and Trump told Cohen to “get it done” — an account that Cohen has relayed to federal prosecutors, according to the Journal.
- There was a lot of fretting over who would actually pay the $130,000 in return for Daniels’ silence, according to the Journal, and Cohen’s request that Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg front the money was refused.
- The ultimate way Daniels was payed off, through Cohen, ended up costing Trump twice as much than had Trump paid off Daniels himself, because Weisselberg authorized a reimbursement scheme for Cohen that covered the tax hit he took and also a $60,000 bonus, according to the Journal.
- Trump, Pecker, who visited Trump in the White House in July 2017, and Cohen are no longer speaking to one another, the Journal reported.