Donald Trump worked behind the scenes to direct efforts by son Eric Trump, Michael Cohen and the Trump Organization to silence adult film actress Stormy Daniels leading up to the election after learning she was about to go public with her story, according to a shocking new report.
The report, published in the conservative Wall Street Journal sharply contradicts claims by Trump and the White House that he had no role in a $130,000 hush payment to Daniels, real name Stephanie Clifford, or in the subsequent effort to silence her.
To the contrary, Trump ordered Cohen to seek a restraining order through private arbitration under terms of a 2016 nondisclosure agreement cobbled together on the eve of the election.
Daniels, of course, went forward with plan to reveal the details of her 2016 affair with the president in Lake Tahoe during a golf tournament, claiming the nondisclosure agreement was flawed and non-binding.
Daniels sued Trump and Cohen to invalidate the agreement after The Journal disclosed its existence this past January.
Trump never signed the agreement. A fictitious name was used instead.
Eric Trump, Trump Organization lawyer Jill Martin and outside lawyer Lawrence Rosen spearheaded the effort to slap Daniels with a restraining order. They were ultimately successful in obtaining one, but Daniels told her story anyway, according to the report.
Following disclosure of the agreement, the president and the Trump Organization denied any involvement in the arbitration. All questions were directed to Cohen, often described as the President’s fixer.
In August, Cohen testified under oath in federal court that Trump directed him to knowingly break the law to boost his own candidacy.
Cohen was charged with eight counts, including two related to campaign-finance violations. Cohen said he acted “at the direction of the candidate” and with the “purpose of influencing the election,” according to reports.
Cohen said that Trump personally ordered him to keep both former Playboy model Karen McDougal and Daniels from publicly disclosing damaging information that would hurt Trump’s campaign. McDougal later said she had a 10-month affair with Trump in 2006-2007.
At the end of the arbitration proceeding, Rosen told Martin to sign the documents based on directions from Eric Trump, according to the report. Eric Trump later said Martin was acting in an “individual capacity” and not in her role as a Trump Organization lawyer.
Based on the latest report, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders Huckabee lied when asked whether President Trump had approved the payments, repeating the President’s claim that “none of these allegations are true.”
“Directing” Cohen to commit such a crime would make Trump a co-conspirator, Mitchell Epner, an attorney at Rottenberg Lipman Rich told Business Insider.
Epner, previously an assistant US attorney for the District of New Jersey, said. “at a minimum,” Trump could be charged with “conspiracy to commit the two campaign finance counts.”
The Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel has issued guidelines, stipulating that a sitting president cannot be indicted until they leave office.