NEW YORK CITY—When FBI agents raided the offices of Michael Cohen—the personal attorney and fixer for Donald Trump—on Monday, they grabbed records related to the notorious Access Hollywood tape, as well as records related to the Stormy Daniels “hush money” payoff, according to a report Wednesday by The New York Times.
The Access Hollywood tape, which was obtained and published by The Washington Post just one month before the 2016 presidential election, revealed then-candidate Trump speaking in vulgar and abusive terms about women and appearing to brag about his own propensity for sexually assault. At one point Trump is heard to say that because he is “a star” he can simply grab women “by the pussy,” without their consent, and they let him get away with it.
But what is the connection between the Access Hollywood tape and the $130,000 payoff made to Daniels by Cohen in exchange for her silence about her alleged affair with Trump in 2006? That remains unclear. But the answer may be found in the lawsuit filed by Daniels against Cohen and Trump seeking to be released from the “hush” agreement.
In that lawsuit, Daniels draws a clear connection between the Access Hollywood tape release and her decision to speak publicly about her sexual relationship with Trump. And as a result, Cohen’s attempt to silence her about the affair was also sparked by the infamous tape, the lawsuit implies.
“Within days of publication of the Access Hollywood tape, several women came forward publicly to tell their personal stories about their sexual encounters with Mr. Trump. Around this time, (Ms. Daniels) likewise sought to share details concerning her relationship and encounters with Mr. Trump with various media outlets,” the lawsuit says.
How the tape connects to Cohen, or why prosecutors believed that Cohen would possess records about the recording of Trump’s crude remarks remains unclear, based on information from the FBI search warrants obtained for the raids on Cohen, the Times reported.
But according to the Times story, federal prosecutors appear extremely interested in Cohen’s attempts during the 2016 campaign to put a lid on information that could prove detrimental to Trump.
Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti, said on Wednesday he believes the FBI raids on Cohen were sparked by Daniels’ lawsuit.
“There’s no question that, that raid resulted in significant part from the filing of our case,” Avenatti said in a CNN interview. “They would not be raiding Michael Cohen’s offices— a practicing attorney, it is a high bar to be able to go do that—they would not be able to execute on the warrants without substantial evidence of wrongdoing. We have every reason to believe that wrongdoing stems from this $130,000 payment and the NDA.”
Daniels herself will sit for her first nationally televised interview since her March 25 appearance on 60 Minutes when she appears on ABC TV’s daytime talk show The View on April 17. She had been slated to appear in The View on February 1, but backed out of the interview at that time.
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