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National
Federal prosecutors have evidence Trump involved in hush money payments, report says
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Federal prosecutors have evidence Trump involved in hush money payments, report says

Prosecutors Reportedly Have Evidence Of President Trump's Involvement In Hush Money Payments

Federal prosecutors have evidence Trump involved in hush money payments, report says

Federal prosecutors in New York have gathered evidence that shows President Donald Trump participated in so-called hush money payments made to women who claimed to have had sexual encounters with him before his presidency, according to The Wall Street Journal.

>> Read more trending news

Citing a slew of unidentified sources, the newspaper reported that Trump “intervened directly to suppress stories about his alleged sexual encounters with women,” coordinating with American Media Inc.’s chief executive, David Pecker. American Media publishes the National Enquirer.

The Journal reported the coordination might have violated campaign-finance laws.

Karen McDougal, a former Playboy Playmate, claimed she had a nearly year-long affair with Trump in 2006 and 2007. The rights to her story were bought in August 2016 by American Media, the Journal reported, but her story was never published.

>> Cohen pleads guilty to 8 charges, says Trump told him to pay off Stormy Daniels, Karen McDougal

Adult film star Stormy Daniels also said she had a sexual encounter with Trump in 2006. She signed a non-disclosure agreement shortly before voters went to the polls for the 2016 presidential election in exchange for $130,000 from Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen.

Cohen pleaded guilty in August to multiple counts of tax evasion and a campaign finance violation related to payments to Daniels and McDougal. In court, Cohen said he paid a pair of women in coordination with an “unnamed candidate” to influence the election. Neither the president nor the women were named, though The Associated Press reported that the amounts of money paid and the dates of the transactions lined up with payments made to Daniels and McDougal.

>> Trump accuses ex-lawyer Michael Cohen of making up stories to get a deal

In court records, prosecutors said Cohen planned to buy the rights to McDougal’s story from American Media Inc. for $125,000, but the media company backed out of the deal before it could be finalized.

The Journal reported that Trump contacted Pecker directly when he learned in mid-2016 that McDougal was considering selling her story. American Media decided to buy it for $150,000 after learning that she was also in talks with ABC News, according to the newspaper.

>> Who is Karen McDougal? 6 things to know about the woman who says she was Trump’s mistress

The deal signed by McDougal included promises that she would appear as a model on two magazine covers and that American Media could publish health and fitness columns under her name, the Journal reported. The newspaper added that Pecker consulted with an election-law specialist before signing the deal to ensure that the payment would be justified for business and not amount to an illegal campaign contribution.

Under federal law, corporations are not allowed to give cash or in-kind contributions directly to candidates.

After the deal was signed, Cohen became concerned that Pecker might leave American Media and hatched a plan to buy all materials related to Trump that had been collected by the company over the years, according to the Journal.

>> Report: Trump, Cohen planned to buy National Enquirer 'dirt' before election

The New York Times reported in August that, before the 2016 presidential election, Trump and Cohen discussed buying “all the dirt on Mr. Trump that the National Enquirer and its parent company had collected on him, dating back to the 1980s.” The deal, which encompassed older stories from the tabloid and lists of sensitive sources and tips, among other things, was never finalized, the Times reported.

Trump and Cohen discussed the possibility of buying McDougal’s story and the rest of the materials collected by American Media in a recording seized by authorities in April, during a raid on Cohen’s office, according to the Journal. The recording was made in September 2016, two months before that year’s presidential election, CNN reported.

>> Michael Cohen secretly taped Donald Trump in 2016, attorney confirms

“I need to open up a company for the transfer of all that info regarding our friend, David,” Cohen can be heard saying in the tape. CNN reported that the David that Cohen referred to was most likely Pecker.

A few months later, after audio of Trump speaking on a hot mic on the set of “Access Hollywood” in 2005 surfaced, Cohen asked American Media to buy Daniels’ story, according to the Journal. However, Pecker declined because “he didn’t want his company to pay a porn star,” the newspaper reported.

>> Trump says he may sue over 'illegal' 2005 'Access Hollywood' video

When Trump learned Pecker wouldn’t buy Daniels’s story, he told Cohen to “get it done,” according to the Journal. The newspaper cited Cohen’s account to prosecutors.

Within days, Cohen and Daniels’s attorney had negotiated a non-disclosure agreement for Daniels, the Journal reported.

Trump has denied that he had affairs with either Daniels or McDougal. After Cohen pleaded guilty in August, the president accused his ex-attorney of “(making) up stories in order to get a ‘deal’” and praised his former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, for refusing to “’break’” in a separate case stemming from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election meddling.

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The Latest Headlines You Need To Know

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Journalism advocates said that the White House position is a break with historical tradition, with past administrations granting press access to large and small news outlets, and that the Acosta suspension is an unprecedented step that could have a negative impact on journalism. Update 12:05 p.m. EST Nov. 14: In a court filing Wednesday, the Justice Department argued, 'No journalist has a First Amendment right to enter the White House,' after CNN sued the Trump administration for revoking Acosta’s press credentials, The Hill reported. 'The president and White House possess the same broad discretion to regulate access to the White House for journalists (and other members of the public) that they possess to select which journalists receive interviews, or which journalists they acknowledge at press conferences,' attorneys said in the filing, according to The Hill. Attorneys for CNN filed suit Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Washington. A judge scheduled a hearing in the case for 3 p.m. Wednesday. Update 11:45 a.m. EST Nov. 14: More than a dozen news organizations on Wednesday announced their intent to support CNN in the network’s suit against the Trump administration. 'Whether the news of the day concerns national security, the economy, or the environment, reporters covering the White House must remain free to ask questions,' officials from organizations including The Associated Press and The New York Times, said Wednesday in a joint statement.  'It is imperative that independent journalists have access to the President and his activities, and that journalists are not barred for arbitrary reasons.' Update 11:15 a.m. EST Nov. 14: Fox News plans to file an amicus brief in support of CNN in the news network's lawsuit against the Trump administration, Fox News president Jay Wallace said Wednesday in a statement. 'Secret Service passes for working White House journalists should never be weaponized,' Wallace said. 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CNN’s attorney said the network is considering whether to request financial damages in its claim against President Donald Trump. Original report: In the lawsuit, filed in D.C. District Court, attorneys for CNN asked for Acosta’s press credentials to be immediately reinstated and protected. >> White House suspends CNN reporter Jim Acosta’s press credentials “While the suit is specific to CNN and Acosta, this could have happened to anyone,” CNN officials said in a statement. “If left unchallenged, the actions of the White House would create a dangerous chilling effect for any journalist who covers our elected officials.” Attorneys for CNN named six defendants in the suit, including Trump, chief of staff John Kelly and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. The lawsuit alleged the decision to revoke Acosta’s credentials was a “severe and unprecedented punishment” following “years of hostility by President Trump against CNN and Acosta based on the contents of their reporting.” >> Sarah Sanders tweeted ‘doctored’ video of Jim Acosta: WaPost “(It’s) an unabashed attempt to censor the press and exclude reporters from the White House who challenge and dispute the President’s point of view,” CNN attorneys said in the lawsuit. Acosta’s press credentials were suspended Wednesday after a White House intern attempted to take his microphone during a news conference with Trump. Huckabee Sanders released a statement after the incident accusing Acosta of “placing his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job as a White House intern.”
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  • Investigators with the FBI are probing the death of an American woman on a Princess Cruises ship bound for Aruba, according to multiple reports. >> Read more trending news The 52-year-old woman, whose name was not released, died early Tuesday while aboard the Royal Princess, The Associated Press reported. Princess Cruises officials told WPLG in a statement that Aruban authorities boarded the ship, which can carry 3,600 passengers, when it arrived in the country. “We are cooperating fully with the investigating authorities, including the FBI,” the statement said. “An official cause of death has not been announced.” Citing local media reports, CBS News reported that Aruban authorities are investigating the case as a possible homicide. The Royal Princess left Florida’s Port Everglades on Nov. 9 for a 7-day Southern Caribbean cruise. It will return on Saturday to Fort Lauderdale. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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