President Donald Trump sought help from friends in publishing during the 2016 campaign to deliver hush money payments to women with whom he had relationships. And federal prosecutors have the evidence.
The Wall Street Journal published an explosive report on Friday detailing how Trump used his relationship with National Enquirer CEO David Pecker to arrange payoffs to women, including Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, who both claim they had affairs with Trump.
The WSJ interviewed people with "direct knowledge of the events or who have been briefed on them, as well as court papers, corporate records and other documents" for the story, which is the most sweeping chronicle of Trump's involvement in the payoffs.
Trump reportedly asked Pecker in 2015, "What can you do to help my campaign?" to which Pecker promised to buy the women's stories and then bury them in a process known as "catch and kill."
The Journal found that Trump in 2016 requested that Pecker make sure McDougal's story was never made public. Pecker's company, American Media Inc., paid McDougal, a former Playboy playmate, for her silence about her alleged fling with Trump a decade prior.
Daniels, meanwhile, signed a non-disclosure agreement with Trump's former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen in October 2016 and received a $130,000 settlement for her silence.
Daniels, a former porn star, has since sued Trump to have the NDA voided because Trump himself never signed it. Her attorney Michael Avenatti has teased at challenging Trump in the 2020 presidential election.
The WSJ's reporting is the strongest evidence yet that Trump individuals in his orbit likely committed campaign finance violations leading up to the presidential election.
Pecker was granted immunity in August and Cohen pleaded guilty to eight counts of tax evasion, bank fraud and campaign finance violations. Trump was named as an unindicted co-conspirator stemming from the ill-begotten payments in Cohen's plea agreement.
Richard Hasen, a campaign finance law expert and law professor at the University of California, Irvine told the Journal that Trump's involvement would not necessarily mean he broke campaign finance laws. The key lies in whether Trump had criminal intent and knowingly broke the law.
Friday's WSJ story appears to bolster rumors which circulated over the summer that Pecker had a safe containing documents relating to the payments. The documents were relocated before Trump's inauguration and their whereabouts are not publicly known.
Trump has denied having any sexual relationship with either Daniels or McDougal.
The WSJ report has reignited calls for Trump's impeachment.
@kylegriffin1 But tell me again why Dems shouldn't be focused on impeachment— Daniel Sherman (@Daniel Sherman)1541787154.0
@parato @ChikTandoori @danshermanparty @kylegriffin1 Then once we get to that, hopefully enough pressure will be pu… https://t.co/LZB0j8c0lR— Tyler Gorash (@Tyler Gorash)1541788379.0
@kylegriffin1 Soon... https://t.co/LLA6NRl3Db— Sho'Nuff Skywalker (@Sho'Nuff Skywalker)1541787110.0
@kylegriffin1 Always knew it would be this that took him down first!! https://t.co/sGOWJjrAEM— Skyleigh #GlovesOff📢⏰⚖️ (@Skyleigh #GlovesOff📢⏰⚖️)1541787465.0
@power2she @kylegriffin1 Dems, Jan sworn in GOP is not going to do anything. We have seen this for 8 years.— DaleWillResist📣 (@DaleWillResist📣)1541787547.0
Is anyone surprised?
Not in the slightest. But people are understandably frustrated that nothing ever seems to stick to Trump.
@KFILE @jonfavs I feel like every day we find he has broken some new law and then nothing happens. When will there be a consequence?— denise ingram (@denise ingram)1541787847.0
@KFILE The possibility was raised two years ago. This is confirmation he broke the law.— Jesse Hlava (@Jesse Hlava)1541787681.0
@KFILE @overflowjoy Of course he did. He has no respect for anything or anyone.— Tedracat 🇨🇦 (@Tedracat 🇨🇦)1541792666.0
@KFILE Which is worse, the fact that this happened, or the fact that not one vote will change because of it— Miktylinc (@Miktylinc)1541795614.0
@KFILE @fawfulfan Wow, color me surprised 🙄— Birdie🖕🏼 #bluenomatterwho2020 (@Birdie🖕🏼 #bluenomatterwho2020)1541790688.0
@KFILE so disappointing but I'm afraid nobody will care.— mark meyerson (@mark meyerson)1541790386.0
Many doubt even this will be enough to bring down Trump.
@KFILE We are well beyond the point of Donald Trump having to resign. The situation demands more than a resignati… https://t.co/EKQnBjphGM— Russell Drew (@Russell Drew)1541790242.0
@KFILE Wow, surely this will be the one that brings him down— Robo Reagan (@Robo Reagan)1541790058.0
@KFILE @jonfavs "raising the possibility"??? When do we stop tiptoeing around this clown and call him out??? He's… https://t.co/liLirfOUXi— Don Flanagan (@Don Flanagan)1541789583.0
@KFILE Why won't anyone DO something. How can "they" let him continue this crime wave? Who CAN do something?— Debbie Terry (@Debbie Terry)1541787743.0
Drip, drip, drip.