Trump Played Key Role in Hush Payments to Stormy Daniels, McDougal - Report

© REUTERS / Carlos BarriaU.S. President Donald Trump talks to reporters as he departs for campaign travel to North Carolina from the White House in Washington, U.S., October 22, 2018.
U.S. President Donald Trump talks to reporters as he departs for campaign travel to North Carolina from the White House in Washington, U.S., October 22, 2018. - Sputnik International
US President Donald Trump played a vital role in keeping alleged mistresses Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal from speaking out about their sexual encounters, according to a Wall Street Journal report published on Friday.

Citing roughly three dozen people with direct knowledge of the hefty hush payments made to Daniels and McDougal, the report states that Trump was involved in "nearly every step" of the nondisclosure agreements that the pair signed ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

Trump reportedly initially kicked up talks with his longtime friend David Pecker, the CEO and chairman of American Media Inc (AMI), which publishes the National Enquirer, in August of 2015 regarding how AMI could help him out while he was on the campaign trail.

Adult film actress Stormy Daniels speaks to members of the media after a hearing at federal court, Monday, April 16, 2018, in New York, as she is accompanied by her attorney Michael Avenatti. - Sputnik International
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The pair later came to the agreement that AMI would essentially engage in a "catch and kill" practice, where AMI via the National Enquirer would buy the rights to stories that painted Trump in negative light and just not publish them.

News of the practice was previously highlighted in a 2016 article by the Journal that discussed how AMI purchased the rights to McDougal's story in exchange for $150,000. The latest WSJ report indicates that it was Trump who reportedly reached out to Pecker after AMI had tipped off his former lawyer Michael Cohen about the McDougal story.

The Journal reported that prior to AMI forking the funds over to McDougal, Pecker took the initiative and met with an election law expert to cover his bases and make sure that he wasn't at risk of violating any campaign finance laws.

After the agreement between Trump and Pecker was set, Trump reportedly "directed deals in phone calls and meetings" with Cohen in order to coordinate the payments for both women. According to the Journal, Daniels was paid $130,000 by Cohen rather than Pecker/AMI because the CEO "didn't want his company to pay a porn star."

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It's Trump's participation in the deals that raises the question of whether the then-candidate may have violated federal campaign finance laws, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Lawrence Noble, a former general counsel for the Federal Election Commission, told the Washington Post that in order to prove that campaign laws were violated, there needed to be evidence that the money was paid to protect the campaign; that it was in excess of the $2,700 contribution limits; that the funds came from prohibited source; that the contribution was not properly reported; and that the violation was committed knowingly and willfully.

Although Trump has repeatedly denied ever having knowledge relating to the hush payments, the Journal reported that the US Attorney's office in Manhattan, which previously prosecuted Cohen, presently has evidence of Trump's role in the payments.

"This further confirms what we have been saying and alleging for months," Michael Avenatti, Daniels' lawyer, wrote on Twitter in response to the WSJ article. "There can be no question now as to the validity of our allegations. I look forward to the apologies directed at my honest and heroic client Stormy Daniels."

"In light of the sworn testimony and evidence relating to the payment to my client and Trump's involvement (confirming our allegations), we are calling for the immediate indictment of the president. No one is above the law in the United States," Avenatti said in a follow-up tweet.

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The latest development comes months after Cohen pleaded guilty to eight charges that included tax fraud and making false statements. At the time, Cohen added fuel to allegations that indicated Trump knew about the hush payments, testifying in court that the at the direction of "the candidate for federal office" he arranged payments "for principal purpose of influencing election."

McDougal was ultimately released from her nondisclosure agreement in April after she filed a lawsuit claiming that AMI misled her about the terms, CNBC reported. Daniels is still trying to break from her own NDA.

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