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Documents in Trump hush money case reveal flurry of phone calls to engineer payments

The search warrant application described a phone call on October 8, 2016, about a month before the election, involving Trump, Cohen and Hope Hicks, then the press secretary for Trump’s presidential campaign, which prosecutors believed was to discuss paying to squash public reports of an affair between Trump and Daniels.

A few minutes after that call, Cohen called David Pecker, the president of American Media Inc who was close to Trump, and then received a call from another employee at AMI, which published the National Enquirer tabloid newspaper. A short time later, Cohen called Hicks back for about two minutes. Calls between the Trump campaign, AMI and Cohen continued through the evening.

The investigation centred around hush money payments paid by Donald Trump;s lawyer Michael Cohen (centre) to adult film actress Stormy Daniels (right) and a Playboy model.

The investigation centred around hush money payments paid by Donald Trump;s lawyer Michael Cohen (centre) to adult film actress Stormy Daniels (right) and a Playboy model. Credit:AP

Prosecutors said these calls were to discuss getting a payment to Keith Davidson, then an attorney for Daniels.

On October 17, 2016, Cohen was involved in calls and texts as he feared the attempted settlement agreement might fall apart, according to the warrant application.

Continued negotiations

The documents indicated that Dylan Howard, chief content officer at AMI, believed Daniels might be trying to sell her story to a news outlet after all.

Former Playboy model Karen McDougal alleged she had an affair with Donald Trump.

Former Playboy model Karen McDougal alleged she had an affair with Donald Trump.Credit:CNN

“I’m told they’re going with DailyMail,” Howard wrote in a text to Cohen late that afternoon, referring to a British tabloid. “Are you aware?” The pair quickly got on the phone. Cohen tried to call Trump but appears to have been unsuccessful, the documents showed.

The negotiations continued with Cohen communicating multiple times on Octpber 26 with Daniels’ lawyer and the two AMI executives, Pecker and Howard, the documents showed.

The following morning Cohen called Trump and spoke with him for about three minutes, and then soon after made a second call for about 90 seconds to Trump, the documents showed. Less than 30 minutes later, Cohen sent emails to a person who had set up the limited liability companies through which the payment funds were handled, asking that he be sent “the filing receipt” as soon as possible, the documents showed.

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After meeting with a bank representative from First Republic Bank at Trump Tower that day, Cohen transferred $US131,000 out of a home equity line of credit that Cohen had at First Republic, which prosecutors said was used to pay Daniels.

Cohen, who was once Trump’s self-described “fixer”, began serving a three-year prison sentence in May for his campaign finance violations and other crimes, including making false statements to a bank and tax evasion.

Cohen admitted paying off a woman who claimed to have had an affair with Trump, saying in a court hearing that he did it at the direction of the candidate himself and that Trump’s company then repaid him. Because the payments benefited the campaign by keeping the accusations secret but weren’t publicly disclosed as campaign expenditures, they violated US law. The plea filing said the reimbursements were classified as “legal expenses” and not as payments related to the campaign.

He also pleaded guilty last November to separate charges brought by the office of former Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, who was investigating contacts between Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and Russia. Cohen admitted he lied to Congress about the extent of contacts between Trump and Russians during the campaign.

Reuters

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