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Manhattan Prosecutors Sue Trump Org Over Hush Money Payments to Stormy Daniels

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Manhattan Prosecutors Sue Trump Org Over Hush Money Payments to Stormy Daniels

2019-08-02 15:08:201 Oct 2018 01:53 AM EST

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer: Image: Stormy Daniels (Image source: Screenshot)

It's been a while since we have heard much about the hush money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels. Manhattan state prosecutors have not forgotten about it, though. They have subpoenaed the Trump Organization for documents relating to the payment, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Daniels claims she had a physical relationship with Donald Trump several years ago. She was told it would lead to an appearance on "The Apprentice," which Trump hosted.  

In 2016, according to his former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, Trump wanted to be sure information about the affair was not discovered to ensure he was elected. $130,000 was paid to Daniels to keep her silent.

There was also another payment of $140,000 made to Karen McDougal, a Playboy model, who also claimed to have an affair with Trump. The money paid to her was for her story to appear in the National Enquirer. Instead, the periodical's parent company, American Media Inc., held onto the story so that, again, no one would find out about the affair before Trump was elected. 

These payments amounted to campaign finance violations and are one of the reasons Cohen is currently doing three years in prison.

The Manhattan district attorney's office issued the subpoena seeking documents from the Trump family-owned Trump Organization regarding the payment made to Daniels in October 2016, one month before Trump was elected. Daniels is the actress's professional name; she is sometimes referred to as Stephanie Clifford in court matters. 

The prosecutors also subpoenaed AMI, according to people familiar with the situation.

Trump Organization attorney Marc Mukasey called the investigation a "political hit job," saying in a statement, "It's just harassment of the president, his family, and his business, using subpoenas and leaks as weapons. We will respond as appropriate." 

The Manhattan U.S. attorney's office conducted their own investigation, but federal prosecutors noted in court last month that they have concluded the investigation into the campaign finance violation. It appears they have done so without indictments.

In addition, the House Oversight Committee is investigating the payments as well. Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-MD) asked the federal prosecutors if the Justice Department policy that bars a sitting president from being indicted played into their decision to not indict Trump. He also asked for the evidence they gathered in their investigation. 

Cohen appeared in court one year ago and took a plea deal, admitting that he made the hush money payments and saying he did so at the direction of the president. Trump has denied he took part in this.

Evidence that has been examined includes the Trump Organization reimbursing Cohen for the payment to Daniels. If he falsified the records to do so, it would be illegal under state law. 

In a charging document, prosecutors said the organization accounts for the Cohen reimbursement by calling it "legal expenses," but there wasn't a retainer agreement in this regard, and the reimbursement was "not in connection with any legal services he had provided."

Cohen provided a $35,000 check that Trump signed on August 1, 2017, to the House Oversight Committee in February. He claimed it was a monthly installment related to the reimbursement. Another check was signed by Donald Trump Jr. and the longtime chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, Allen Weisselberg.  

Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance is also pursuing criminal charges against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, currently serving 7-1/2 years at a federal correctional institution in Pennsylvania.

He was found guilty of eight counts of bank fraud and tax evasion one year ago and the following month took a plea deal for conspiracy and witness tampering. Later the deal was pulled off the table when it was noted he was not complying with its terms.  

After he was sentenced this year, Vance indicted him for 16 more felonies including mortgage fraud, falsifying business records, and other charges.

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