A source has told the Wall Street Journal that President Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen initially refused to pay Stormy Daniels to keep quiet about her alleged affair with Trump. According to this account, Cohen changed his mind after the release of the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape in which Trump is heard describing sexually assaulting women. According to the Journal, Cohen reportedly reached out to one of Daniels’ representatives the day after the tape became public.
Cohen would go on to pay Daniels $130,000 to sign a nondisclosure agreement forbidding her from speaking publicly about the alleged affair.
Daniels’ lawyer Michael Avenatti has also said that the conversation changed after the “Access Hollywood” tape surfaced.
If these new reports are true, it could be bad news for Cohen. From the Wall Street Journal:
Federal prosecutors in New York view the “Access Hollywood” tape as a trigger that spurred Mr. Cohen to bury potentially damaging information about his boss, as they investigate whether the payment amounted to an illegal, in-kind contribution or an expenditure that should have been disclosed by the campaign, people familiar with the matter said. [...]
A campaign-finance charge would require prosecutors to prove the payment to Ms. Clifford was meant to help Mr. Trump prevail in the coming presidential election. Individual political contributions are capped at $5,400 per election cycle, and corporations are barred from giving directly to candidates.
Mr. Cohen’s apparent change of heart on buying Ms. Clifford’s silence, after the “Access Hollywood” tape surfaced and nearly capsized Mr. Trump’s campaign, could help investigators make the link, said Anthony Capozzolo, a defense lawyer and former federal prosecutor in Brooklyn who handled corruption cases.
The charges against Cohen have similarities to those brought against former Senator and presidential candidate John Edwards in 2008, who was charged with making illegal campaign contributions to cover up an affair. According to the Journal, “The Edwards prosecutors struggled to prove the donor payments were ‘for the purpose of influencing any election for federal office,’ part of the legal definition of campaign contribution.”
“[The ‘Access Hollywood’ tape] is exactly the kind of evidence that beats that argument,” Capozzolo told the Journal.