Ex-president wanted to avoid Stormy Daniels hush money payment by delaying it past election

Ex-president wanted to avoid Stormy Daniels hush money payment by delaying it past election

Former U.S. President Donald Trump delivers remarks on the day of his court appearance in New York after being indicted by a Manhattan grand jury following a probe into hush money paid to porn star Stormy Daniels, in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., April 4, 2023.

Marco Bello | Reuters

Former President Donald Trump wanted to avoid paying $130,000 in hush money to a porn star by delaying that payment until after the 2016 presidential election, according to the Manhattan prosecutor pursuing the first-ever criminal charges against an ex-president.

Just weeks before the 2016 contest, Trump’s then-attorney Michael Cohen negotiated a deal to pay that adult film star, Stormy Daniels, for her silence about her alleged affair with the married Trump years earlier. Trump has denied having sex with Daniels, whose given name is Stephanie Clifford.

But Trump directed Cohen to delay making that payment to Daniels “as long as possible,” according to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.

Trump instructed Cohen “that if they could delay the payment until after the election, they could avoid paying altogether, because at that point it would not matter if the story became public,” Bragg alleged.

Emails and text messages between the attorneys for Trump and Daniels, as well as the editor in chief of the National Enquirer’s publisher, reflect that Cohen “attempted to delay making payment as long as possible,” according to Bragg.

Trump’s alleged instruction to delay the payment to Daniels until after the 2016 election could be a key piece of Bragg’s case that Trump falsified business records “to cover up crimes” related to that contest.

Bragg’s 13-page statement of facts about the case that was made public Tuesday alongside the indictment against Trump. The former president pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records during his arraignment in Manhattan criminal court.

Trump ultimately agreed to the payoff made by Cohen, Bragg noted. Trump would go on to win the 2016 presidential race against his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton. Cohen was reimbursed through the Trump Organization in monthly installments in 2017, and those payments were characterized as legal services.

The alleged scheme to conceal payments from the public “violated New York election law, which makes it a crime to conspire to promote a candidacy by unlawful means,” the DA said at a press conference Tuesday afternoon.

Bragg’s allegation that Trump tried to delay the payment to Daniels also challenges an argument made last month by Trump’s current attorney Joe Tacopina. He said the hush money payment to Daniels was “not directly related to the campaign.”

Rather, Tacopina suggested in an ABC News interview that Trump made the payment in order to prevent the publication of an allegation that could embarrass both him and his family.

“He made this with personal funds to prevent something coming out, false, but embarrassing to himself, his family, his young son,” Tacopina said. “That’s not a campaign finance violation. Not by any stretch.”

Tacopina did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

Bragg’s statement of facts did not include copies of the emails and texts he cited as evidence. But the DA’s allegation aligns with a long list of accusers who have publicly claimed that Trump stiffed them for their work. In a single report from USA Today in 2016, hundreds of people accused Trump of withholding payment for services they provided.

Bragg on Tuesday also detailed Trump’s alleged involvement in efforts to suppress ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal’s claim that she had an affair with Trump years ago. Publishing company American Media Inc. in 2018 admitted it paid $150,000 in hush money to McDougal “in concert” with Trump’s campaign to prevent her from publicly airing her allegations ahead of the 2016 election.

Manhattan prosecutors also said that AMI had paid $30,000 to a former Trump Tower doorman who claimed to have a story about Trump fathering a child out of wedlock.

All three payments were part of an alleged “catch and kill” effort by Trump and others “to identify, purchase, and bury negative information about him and boost his electoral prospects,” prosecutors said.

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