When President Trump first launched his campaign in 2015, National Enquirer publisher David Pecker reportedly offered Trump a unique gift: He'd pay off women who alleged they'd had affairs with Trump. And contrary to what he's claimed before, Trump personally orchestrated and took advantage of that promise, The Wall Street Journal reports.
In a massive investigation published Friday, the Journal reports Trump either personally directed, or told his former attorney Michael Cohen to make, payments to silence former Playboy model Karen McDougal and porn star Stormy Daniels. Trump previously claimed he had no knowledge of the payments before they happened, but federal prosecutors have reportedly heard otherwise — from Cohen himself.
News that Pecker, a former longtime friend of Trump, and Cohen paid to bury McDougal's and Daniels' allegations of affairs with Trump has already been reported. But the Journal's interviews with "three dozen people who have direct knowledge of the events" reveal the payments all stemmed from a 2015 Trump Tower meeting in which Trump personally asked Pecker to keep his campaign safe from damaging stories. And when a payment to Daniels stalled, Trump reportedly urged Cohen to "get it done," forcing the lawyer to pay off Daniels himself.
Cohen has allegedly told federal prosecutors all of this in an attempt to soften his sentence for federal crimes he pleaded guilty to in August, implicating Trump along the way. Prosecutors also have secret recordings and even a "reimbursement agreement" that prove Trump funded the hush money payments and "was involved in or briefed on [them] nearly every step" of the way, the Journal writes.
Trump's alleged ties to the payments aren't inherently federal crimes, an election law specialist said. The White House referred the Journal's request for comment to the president's lawyer, who declined to comment. Read more at The Wall Street Journal. Kathryn Krawczyk