Before winning the election in November 2016, President Donald Trump was involved in “nearly every step” of hush money payment arrangements to women he allegedly had sexual affairs with, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal published on Friday.
What’s more, the report from the WSJ indicates that federal prosecutors themselves have obtained the evidence demonstrating Trump’s involvement in those payments.
The president has continued to deny having knowledge about the payments that were made on his behalf to women in cooperation for their silence. Yet the report seems to indicate he had a more hands-on role than what he’s previously said in public.
The Wall Street Journal cited multiple sources in their reporting, including documents demonstrating the president’s involvement at the time as well as dozens of interviews with people who had knowledge of what evidence federal investigators had in their possession, reported CNBC on Friday.
Besides being an embarrassing revelation for Trump, potentially damaging his already fledgling public image, the implications of having knowledge of and being involved with these payments may land him in legal troubles as well. Federal election laws require candidates for office and their surrogates to disclose any and all spending done during a campaign that is made in order to influence or impact the outcome of an election.
While having an affair and paying someone to stay silent about it isn’t a crime, the act of doing so while running for federal office and not disclosing the payment as being an integral part of winning the election is potentially in violation of federal law.
Claims that Trump knew and directed the payments have already been leveled against him by his former lawyer Michael Cohen, who in August pleaded guilty to campaign violations during the 2016 election year. In his plea statement, Cohen said that he had coordinated payments with women on behalf of a candidate for federal office and that those payments were directed by that candidate in order to help that individual win the election.
Almost certainly, the individual Cohen was describing was President Donald Trump.
The news on Friday seems to corroborate Cohen’s plea statement and suggests that the information has been obtained by federal prosecutors looking closely at the president’s alleged actions.
The recent outcomes of the midterm elections play into this as well. With Democratic lawmakers soon to take over control of the House of Representatives, the possibility of Trump having to face impeachment hearings increases in huge ways as well.
According to the House of Representatives ethics website, “anyone who knowingly and willfully falsifies or conceals any material fact in [an FEC filing] statement to the government may be fined up to $50,000, imprisoned for up to five years, or both.”