Trump Directed ‘Nearly Every Step’ Of Stormy Daniels Payoff: WSJ

Donald Trump was far more deeply involved in orchestrating potentially illegal hush money payments to AVN Hall of Famer Stormy Daniels and former Playboy centerfold model Karen McDougal than has previously been revealed—or that he has ever admitted — according to an explosive new Wall Street Journal report published on Friday. 

In fact, Trump has denied that he was involved at all in paying Daniels to keep quiet about a 2006 sexual encounter. In August, Trump’s former lawyer and “fixer” Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to felony charges related to payoffs to the two women. In his guilty plea, Cohen stated under oath that Trump had personally ordered him to pay the women for their silence.

Trump then denied Cohen’s accusation, claiming to Fox News that he did not even know about the payments at the time. But Friday’s Journal report, based on a 22-page document by federal prosecutors, says that not only did Trump know about the payments, he personally directed the process of making the payoffs at “nearly every step.”

Cohen has revealed to prosecutors that he personally discussed the payments extensively with Trump, and that they plotted how to issue the payoffs in a way that would cover Trump’s own tracks, allowing him to plausibly deny his involvement.

Cohen pleaded guilty to violating federal campaign finance laws by making the payoffs to Daniels and McDougal, and according to Friday’s report, Trump himself may also be guilty of similar felonies, making unreported payments specifically to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. 

Cohen told the prosecutors that in discussing the Daniels payoff, Trump ordered him to “get it done,” according to the Journal, which also revealed that in 2015 as his presidential run was gearing up, Trump met with his close ally David Pecker, publisher of The National Enquirer. At that meeting, Pecker offered to pay off women to keep quiet about their affairs with Trump. 

Other revelations in the Journal exposé include: 

• Feds have evidence that Trump himself saw the hush money payments as serving a political purpose, to benefit his campaign, and not simply as a way to avoid personal embarrassment as his current lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, has suggested. 

• Cohen financed the payment to Daniels on his own as an act of last-minute desperation before the 2016 election, fearing Daniels was about to go public with her story. Trump and his chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg held off on making the payment because they couldn’t figure out how to cover up Trump’s involvement.

• Pecker was willing to pay off McDougal by buying the rights to her story and then never publishing it—but he refused to do the same with Daniels’ story, because “ he didn’t want his company to pay a porn star,” the Journal reported.

Daniels' attorney Michael Avenatti responded to the Journal’s revelations via his Twitter account.  

“This further confirms what we have been saying and alleging for months,” he tweeted. "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.”

Photo by Dan Scavino - The White House/Wikimedia Commons Public Domain