By ADRIAN MORROW
Monday, December 10, 2018
WASHINGTON -- Donald Trump allegedly ordered his lawyer to make illegal payments to two women who claimed to have had extramarital affairs with the future President.
A Russian national contacted Mr. Trump's campaign, offering to set up a meeting with Vladimir Putin that would mix political discussion with business negotiations over a Moscow hotel project.
Mr. Trump's former campaign chair, facing criminal charges for money laundering and illegal lobbying, remained in touch with members of the Russian President's administration - and then lied about it.
These are some of the accusations contained in a flurry of legal filings that continued to make waves over the weekend.
They relate to two separate cases connected to investigations of Mr. Trump's administration and campaign team.
In one case, Michael Cohen, Mr. Trump's former lawyer, has pleaded guilty to breaking campaign-finance laws, lying to Congress and cheating on his taxes.
As part of his sentencing, New York prosecutors and Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating allegations of Russian election interference and collusion with Mr. Trump's campaign team, filed reports outlining his crimes and his subsequent cooperation with their investigations.
Mr. Mueller also filed a brief arguing that Paul Manafort, who ran Mr. Trump's presidential campaign for three months, violated his plea bargain with Mr.
Mueller by repeatedly lying, and deserves a harsher sentence as a result. Mr. Manafort, who was convicted of dodging taxes on payments from the former Putin-allied president of Ukraine, contends he did not mislead Mr.
The President tried to distance himself from the actions of his former associates on Friday, tweeting: "Totally clears the President. Thank you!"
In fact, the documents provide a glimpse inside the intersecting investigations circling Mr.
Trump's White House and, in some cases, directly implicate him.
"There's a very real prospect that on the day Donald Trump leaves office, the Justice Department may indict him, that he may be the first President in quite some time to face the real prospect of jail time," said Adam Schiff, the House Democrat likely to become intelligence committee chairman when the new Congress is sworn in next month, on CBS's Face the Nation Sunday.
TRUMP ALLEGEDLY ORDERED PAYOFFS THAT BROKE CAMPAIGN-FINANCE LAWS Shortly before the 2016 election, Mr. Cohen arranged payments to two women - unidentified in the documents, but whose stories match those of Karen McDougal and Stephanie Clifford (also known as Stormy Daniels) - who said they had affairs with Mr.
Trump while he was married.
Prosecutors' submissions say Mr. Cohen paid $125,000 to an unidentified media company, reported elsewhere to be National Enquirer owner American Media Inc., to buy the rights to Ms.
McDougal's story and then ensure it was never published.
Then, he paid $130,000 to Ms.
Clifford in exchange for her silence.
After the campaign, prosecutors said, executives of the Trump Organization agreed to give Mr. Cohen $420,000 to replace the money he paid Ms. Clifford and compensate his work.
The company "falsely accounted for these payments as 'legal expenses,' " the document says.
It also alleges that Mr. Trump, referred to in the document as "Individual-1," was directly involved in the payment scheme.
Mr. Cohen "acted in co-ordination with and at the direction of" Mr. Trump, the prosecutors wrote.
"Cohen acted with the intent to influence the 2016 presidential election. Cohen co-ordinated his actions with one or more members of the campaign, including through meetings and phone calls, about the fact, nature, and timing of the payments," the document says.
Because the payments were made to stop embarrassing revelations ahead of the election, they are considered campaign expenses, and violate election-finance rules that govern how much can be contributed to a campaign and how it must be disclosed.
Some Democrats warned that Mr. Trump's involvement in the payments were grounds for him to be thrown out of office.
"They're impeachable offences," New York Congressman Jerry Nadler told CNN on Sunday.
"Even though they were committed before the President became President, they were committed in the service of fraudulently obtaining the office."
COHEN SPOKE WITH A PURPORTED KREMLIN INTERMEDIARY OFFERING A MEETING BETWEEN TRUMP AND PUTIN Last month, Mr. Cohen admitted that he worked on a project to build a Trump-branded hotel in Moscow during the presidential campaign.
At one point, he spoke with the office of Mr. Putin's spokesman about the project and discussed meeting with Kremlin officials.
Mr. Mueller's filing on Friday reveals this wasn't Mr. Cohen's only contact with Russia: He told Mr. Mueller about another Russian, who is not identified in the document, who got in touch with him in November, 2015.
The Russian, who claimed to be a "trusted person" in Russia, repeatedly offered to set up a sitdown between Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin to discuss "synergy on a government level." The meeting was pitched as a combination of political summit and business discussion to push forward the hotel deal, Mr. Cohen told Mr. Mueller. The Russian apparently told Mr. Cohen there was "no bigger warranty in any project" than having Mr. Putin's blessing.
Mr. Cohen didn't pursue the offer, he told Mr. Mueller, because he felt he already had enough connections to the Russian government.
COHEN GAVE MUELLER "USEFUL INFORMATION" ON MEMBERS OF THE TRUMP ORGANIZATION AND WHITE HOUSE OFFICIALS In two cryptic paragraphs, Mr.
Mueller suggests that Mr. Cohen provided him with extensive details on matters involving people close to Mr. Trump.
What exactly Mr. Cohen told Mr. Mueller is not revealed. Mr.
Mueller says only that some of it involved "discrete Russia-related matters" that Mr. Cohen knew about because of his contacts with Trump Organization executives during the campaign. Mr.
Cohen also gave Mr. Mueller information on his contacts with people in the White House, the document says.
The exact importance of any of this information is unclear.
But the fact that a man who worked closely with Mr. Trump for more than a decade is now helping out the man investigating his administration suggests that if there is any wrongdoing, Mr. Mueller is certain to find it.
MANAFORT WAS IN CONTACT WITH THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION WHILE HE WAS FACING CHARGES Even as he was facing prosecution for money laundering, illegal lobbying and dodging taxes, Mr. Manafort was communicating with people in the presidential administration, Mr. Mueller alleges. Mr. Manafort then lied about this to Mr. Mueller's office.
Mr. Mueller says Mr. Manafort told one of his colleagues that Mr. Manafort was in touch with an unidentified "senior" official in the administration as recently as February, 2018. In May, Mr. Manafort told someone to speak with an administration official on his behalf.
MANAFORT ALLEGEDLY LIED SO OFTEN, HIS OWN LAWYER HAD TO CORRECT HIM Over the course of 12 meetings with investigators, Mr. Mueller says, Mr. Manafort lied repeatedly about a wide range of subjects.
These included his dealings with Konstantin Kilimnik, an associate in Ukraine; a money transfer to a company working for Mr.
Manafort; and an unspecified other investigation that the Department of Justice was conducting.
During this other investigation, Mr. Mueller says, Mr. Manafort gave investigators two different versions of events in different meetings. But he back-pedalled on the second version after his lawyer "showed him notes" reminding him that he'd told a different story in a previous meeting.