US President Donald Trump was “involved in or briefed on nearly every step of the agreements” to pay off multiple women who claimed to have had sexual affairs with him, before was was elected president, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.
Citing interviews with “three dozen people who have direct knowledge of the events or who have been briefed on them, as well as court papers, corporate records and other documents,” the WSJ said Trump intervened directly on a number of occasions to “suppress stories about his alleged sexual encounters with women,” and provide them with hush money.
The report appeared to corroborate the account of Trump’s longtime former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen who was also heavily involved in the deals and who pleaded guilty this summer to eight counts, including violations of campaign finance rules during the 2016 presidential race, implicating his former boss in the process.
Cohen told a federal judge in August that he had paid sums of $130,000 and $150,000 each to two women who claimed they had affairs with Trump, adult film star Stormy Daniels (real name Stephanie Clifford) and Playboy model Karen McDougal, acting at his boss’s request in a bid to buy their silence “with the purpose of influencing the election.”
The president has denied involvement, but the WSJ report further suggested that he violated federal campaign finance laws.
“The Wall Street Journal found that Mr. Trump was involved in or briefed on nearly every step of the agreements. He directed deals in phone calls and meetings with his self-described fixer, Michael Cohen, and others. The US attorney’s office in Manhattan has gathered evidence of Mr. Trump’s participation in the transactions,” the report read.
The WSJ report begins with details of a 2015 meeting arranged by Cohen at Trump Tower between Trump, then a presidential candidate, and longtime friend and media executive David Pecker. According to the accounts, Trump asked Pecker what he could do to help his campaign, and the latter responded by offering to “use his National Enquirer tabloid to buy the silence of women if they tried to publicize alleged sexual encounters with Mr. Trump.”
Less than a year later, Trump allegedly asked Pecker to quash the story of the affair with McDougal and she was soon paid $150,000 to remain silent about the encounter.
That same year, Pecker allegedly refused to make a second payment, this time to Daniels/Clifford with whom Trump is said to have had affair in 2006, “on the grounds that he didn’t want his company to pay a porn star,” the WSJ reported.
Cohen himself made the payment to Daniels/Clifford, after Trump allegedly told him to “get it done.”
To federal prosecutors, Cohen said the first payment was “in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office,” and the second was made “under direction of the same candidate.”
Both McDougal and Daniels/Clifford have filed lawsuits to break their non-disclosure agreements and speak about the affairs.