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The Journal Gazette

Friday, July 19, 2019 1:00 am

Court papers detail hush money

Trump involved in flurry of calls before election

JIM MUSTIAN | Associated Press

NEW YORK – Court records released Thursday show that President Donald Trump took part in a flurry of phone calls in the weeks before the 2016 election as his close aides and allies scrambled to pay porn star Stormy Daniels to keep quiet about an alleged affair.

The documents detailing calls and text messages were made public as federal prosecutors closed their investigation into the payoff with no plans to charge anyone in the scandal beyond Trump's former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen.

Federal prosecutors in New York said in a court filing that they investigated whether other people obstructed justice. In the end, the decision was made not to bring additional charges, according to two people briefed on the matter.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan did not explain its decision not to prosecute anyone else. U.S. Justice Department policy prohibits the indictment of a sitting president.

The White House had no immediate comment on the latest documents.

The newly unsealed court papers, consisting of search warrant applications, offered new details about the campaign's efforts to quash stories about the alleged affairs.

The documents cite records showing Trump spoke on the phone with Cohen at least five times between Oct. 8 and Oct. 28 as Trump's campaign rushed to keep a lid on tales of his alleged misconduct in the closing weeks of the campaign.

In the series of calls that began at 7:20 p.m. on Oct. 8, Trump, Cohen and Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks spoke on the phone for several minutes, followed immediately by a series of calls between Cohen and David Pecker, president of American Media Inc., the parent company of the National Enquirer, and the company's chief content officer, Dylan Howard.

Cohen then phoned Trump again at 8:03 p.m. and spoke with Trump for eight minutes. Cohen pleaded guilty last year to campaign finance violations and other offenses and is serving a three-year prison sentence. He has long maintained that Trump directed him to orchestrate the payoffs to the two women – an assertion prosecutors also have made in court filings. The payment to McDougal was funneled through Trump-friendly AMI.

Federal prosecutors entered into a non-prosecution agreement with AMI in exchange for the cooperation of its top executives.

The court papers were ordered released by U.S. District Judge William Pauley at the request of several media organizations. The judge called the documents “a matter of national importance.”

The hush-money payment to McDougal remained secret until The Wall Street Journal published a story about it days before Election Day.

Cohen and Hicks were relieved the Journal story did not receive the attention they feared it would. Cohen texted Hicks: “So far I see only 6 stories. Getting little to no traction.” Hicks responded: “Same. Keep praying!! It's working!”

Cohen replied, “Even CNN not talking about it.”