Federal prosecutors have gathered evidence that Donald Trump was directly involved in setting up hush payments to women alleging they had affairs with Trump, The Wall Street Journal reports.
The Journal’s story is behind a paywall, but it has been picked up by other media outlets, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
WSJ reports that Trump met with David Pecker, CEO of National Enquirer publisher American Media Inc., in Trump Tower in August 2015, at which time Pecker “offered 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, Mr. Trump asked Mr. Pecker to quash the story of a former Playboy model who said they’d had an affair,” WSJ reports. “Mr. Pecker’s company soon paid $150,000 to the model, Karen McDougal, to keep her from speaking publicly about it.”
The report adds: “The Trump Tower meeting and its aftermath are among several previously unreported instances in which Mr. Trump intervened directly to suppress stories about his alleged sexual encounters with women, according to 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.
“Taken together, the accounts refute a two-year pattern of denials by Mr. Trump, his legal team and his advisers that he was involved in payoffs to Ms. McDougal and a former adult-film star. They also raise the possibility that the president of the United States violated federal campaign-finance laws.”
The report adds: “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 U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan has gathered evidence of Mr. Trump’s participation in the transactions.”