Trump comes out fighting over campaign cash claim

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Trump comes out fighting over campaign cash claim


The US president’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, admitted eight charges and pointed the finger at Donald Trump. Photo: Reuters
The US president’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, admitted eight charges and pointed the finger at Donald Trump. Photo: Reuters

Donald Trump last night denied hush money payments made to two women claiming affairs before the 2016 US election were illegal – claiming they had not come from campaign funds.

The US president admitted payments to porn star Stormy Daniels and ‘Playboy’ model Karen McDougal to buy their silence “came from me” but dismissed suggestions of wrongdoing.



Paul Manafort was convicted of offences which could bring him 80 years in jail. Photo: ReutersPaul Manafort was convicted of offences which could bring him 80 years in jail. Photo: Reuters

Paul Manafort was convicted of offences which could bring him 80 years in jail. Photo: Reuters

The account starkly contradicts that of Michael Cohen, Mr Trump’s former personal attorney, who pleaded guilty to breaking campaign finance laws over the payments on Tuesday.

Cohen claimed in court he had facilitated both payments at the “direction” of Mr Trump and that it was an attempt to “influence” the 2016 election.

The allegation – effectively implicating Mr Trump as a co-conspirator in a crime – triggered a firestorm in Washington, with congressmen asked if a sitting president could be indicted and if they would begin impeachment proceedings.

Motives

However, Mr Trump, who has changed his public statements on the payments several times, and the White House insisted the president had done nothing wrong and called into question Cohen’s motives.

Mr Trump suggested on Twitter that Cohen had decided to “make up stories” to secure a deal with prosecutors and reduce his jail sentence.

Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, said: “The president has done nothing wrong, there are no charges against him.”

At the core of the dispute are two payments made to women alleging affairs with Mr Trump before the election. Ms Daniels received $130,000 and Ms McDougal received $150,000. He denies the affairs.

Cohen admitted the payments broke campaign finance laws and pleaded guilty, saying the payments were an attempt to “influence” the 2016 election.

When the payments first became public, Mr Trump denied knowledge of them, then his lawyer Rudy Giuliani admitted they occurred.

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Speaking to Fox News yesterday, Mr Trump gave his fullest response yet to Mr Cohen, admitting the money eventually came from him but denying that anything illegal had taken place.

Mr Trump said of the payments: “They weren’t taken out of campaign finance. That’s a big thing. That’s a much bigger thing.

“Did they come out of the campaign? They didn’t come out of the campaign, they came from me.”

Mr Trump said he learnt of the payments “later on”, casting further doubt on exactly when he became aware the money had been paid to the women.

Tuesday was described as the most significant day of Mr Trump’s presidency by commentators because two figures closely linked to him were convicted in separate courts within minutes of each other.

In New York, Cohen, who worked as Mr Trump’s lawyer and fixer for a decade, admitted eight charges – five relating to unpaid tax, one relating to a house loan, and two relating to campaign finance laws. He faces more than five years in jail.

Paul Manafort, Mr Trump’s former campaign chairman, was found guilty of eight counts of tax and bank fraud. He faces up to 80 years in jail.

Cohen appears to be open to a plea deal. Lanny Davis, his lawyer, said his client had information that “should be of interest” to Robert Mueller, the man leading the Russian investigation.

By contrast Mr Manafort, who faces spending the rest of his life in jail, has refused to seek a plea agreement.

Discussing both cases, Mr Trump wrote on Twitter: “I feel very badly for Paul Manafort and his wonderful family.

“‘Justice’ took a 12-year-old tax case, among other things, applied tremendous pressure on him and, unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to ‘break’ – make up stories in order to get a ‘deal.’ Such respect for a brave man!”

“Michael Cohen plead (sic) guilty to two counts of campaign finance violations that are not a crime. President Obama had a big campaign finance violation and it was easily settled!”

That comment appeared to reference a $375,000 fine on the 2008 Obama campaign for failing to notify regulators of a series of donations – a civil rather than a criminal violation.

Meanwhile, the Democratic National Committee last night said it thwarted an attempt to hack into a database containing information on tens of millions of voters across the US. A fake login page was created to harvest usernames and passwords. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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