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.
Is anyone surprised?
Not in the slightest. But people are understandably frustrated that nothing ever seems to stick to Trump.
Many doubt even this will be enough to bring down Trump.
Drip, drip, drip.