Trump and ‘Fixer’ Cohen Face Jail, Steep Fines In New Election Cover-up Revelation
On Tuesday, Stephanie Clifford, known in the adult film business as Stormy Daniels, filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court seeking to nullify a 2016 non-disclosure agreement related to President Donald Trump. The lawsuit came in response to an arbitration request filed by Michael Cohen. Clifford has claimed a past sexual relationship with Trump.
Specifically, she states they met in 2006, shortly after Trump’s wife, Melania, gave birth to their son Barron, and carried on a relationship into 2007. While Melania has criticized the allegations of the affair as ‘fake news,’ the claim likely caused some trying times for the president’s marriage.
Most of the allegations in Clifford’s lawsuit could cause the president additional embarrassment if fleshed-out in greater detail should the agreement be voided by the lawsuit. But there is one claim in the lawsuit which, when coupled with a payout and some past public statements, could result in legal trouble from fines to possible jail time for President Trump and his attorney.
PORN STAR hush-money PAYOUT now A POSSIBLE ELECTION LAW VIOLATION
Approximately two weeks before the 2016 presidential election, and in the wake of the Access Hollywood scandal swirling around Donald Trump, Clifford sought to go public with the story of her own Trump affair. According to her lawsuit, Trump, and his attorney, Michael Cohen “aggressively sought to silence Ms. Clifford as part of an effort to avoid her telling the truth, thus helping to ensure he won the Presidential Election.” The Wall Street Journal broke the story in January that the silencing efforts included a $130,000 wire transfer from Cohen to Clifford’s attorney, and a non-disclosure agreement, the latter of which is the subject of the current lawsuit.
Cohen, described in the lawsuit as Trump’s “fixer” made this statement in January about what he deemed the “private transaction” payment to Daniels:
“Neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms. Clifford, and neither reimbursed me for the payment, either directly or indirectly. The payment to Ms. Clifford was lawful, and was not a campaign contribution or a campaign expenditure by anyone.”
Common Cause, the watchdog organization, filed complaints in January when the payment became public. They asked the Department of Justice and Federal Elections Commission to investigate whether the $130,000 payment originated from the Trump Organization or another business or individual person.
The complaint specifically asks for a review of whether the funds were used for the purpose of influencing the election. Daniels claims as much in Section 16 of her suit. If so, such a payment would constitute a contribution to Trump’s presidential campaign in excess of the $2,700 limit individuals are allowed to give federal candidates, making it an illegal contribution. Corporations like the LLC set up to handle (and hopefully, hide) the payment to Daniels are also barred from giving to federal candidates.
In response to that complaint, Cohen answered an interviewer’s question regarding his response to the Federal Election Commission, in which he stated:
“The complaint alleges that I somehow violated campaign finance laws by facilitating an excess, in-kind contribution. The allegations in the complaint are factually unsupported and without legal merit, and my counsel has submitted a response to the F.E.C.”
But that line about “thus helping to ensure he won the Presidential Election” is a huge part of the lawsuit. The Wall Street Journal this week reported Michael Cohen has been complaining to friends about still not having been reimbursed by Trump for the $130,000 payment to Clifford. That would seem to indicate the transaction was not a private one between Cohen and Clifford, but also involved Donald Trump, and that the payout occurred for the furthering of his presidential campaign. The Federal Election Commission states that,
“Most violations of the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) result in civil penalties–fines arrived at through a conciliation process. Knowing and willful violations of certain FECA provisions can lead to imprisonment.”
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This certainly sounds like “knowing and willful.” While it is unlikely President Trump would face imprisonment, really only out of tradition surrounding the office of the Presidency, the same might not be true of Cohen. After all, he is the one who made the payment to Clifford. He is the one who signed the non-disclosure agreement. Clifford’s lawsuit was filed specifically because Donald Trump never signed the agreement. Cohen is also the one who may have made false statements to the FEC.
And now, it appears Trump will stiff him on the $130,000 as doing otherwise would leave a paper trail linking Trump to the original payoff. Not that Trump should escape unpunished if the allegations are proven. Three states (Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin) went for Trump by less than a 1% margin. Would the news of the alleged affair have changed enough minds to keep those states blue? If so, Trump’s illegal porn star payoff not only influenced the election, it may have determined it.
All this makes one wonder, in light of all the affairs and allegations, where are the voices on the right, especially the religious right? It seems they were more concerned with President Obama not attending Billy Graham’s funeral than they are over President Trump committing adultery with porn stars and paying them off?
Read the full lawsuit and the non-disclosure agreement HERE.
Featured image photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.
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Dave Weaver is a freelance political journalist and author. Born in Pennsylvania, which was home most of his life, Dave has called Maryland, New York, Kentucky, Arkansas, Ohio, and Maine home over the last decade. All the wandering has allowed Dave to experience America (and Americans) from a variety of perspectives. For a political junkie, the insights gained from this exposure are invaluable.