- New York federal prosecutors are investigating whether Trump Organisation executives violated campaign finance laws.
- Prosecutors began looking into the matter after Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former longtime lawyer, pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations, tax evasion, and bank fraud last month.
- In a court filing, prosecutors said Trump Organisation executives approved $US420,000 in “reimbursements” to Cohen for “election-related” costs.
Prosecutors at the Manhattan US attorney’s office are probing whether people working at the Trump Organisation broke campaign finance laws, Bloomberg reported.
Investigators are said to have expanded their inquiry after Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s longtime lawyer and the Trump Organisation’s former lead counsel, pleaded guilty to tax evasion, bank fraud, and campaign finance violations last month.
Cohen claimed that his campaign finance violations were made “at the direction of the candidate” with “the purpose of influencing the election.” Cohen’s lawyer, Lanny Davis, confirmed that candidate was Trump.
The Manhattan US attorney’s investigation has been steadily growing in scope over the last several weeks.
In August, it emerged that two of the men closest to hush-money payments to women who claim to have had affairs with Trump were granted immunity by prosecutors.
One of those men is Allen Weisselberg, the CFO of the Trump Organisation. The other is David Pecker, the CEO of American Media, Inc., which owns the Trump-friendly tabloid, The National Enquirer.
At the center of the investigation are two separate payments made to women in order to silence them before the 2016 election.
One of those was a $US130,000 payment Cohen made to the porn star Stormy Daniels in October 2016, just days before the election. Daniels claims she had an affair with Trump in 2006, which Trump denies.
The other was a $US150,000 that American Media, Inc. paid to the former Playboy model Karen McDougal in exchange for the rights to her story about an alleged 2006 affair with Trump.
But the outlet never published the piece. That practice is known as “catch and kill,” and it effectively silenced McDougal about her allegations. The Washington Post reported in July that Cohen had secretly recorded a conversation in which he and Trump discussed a plan to purchase the rights to McDougal’s story from American Media, Inc.
In a court filing last month, prosecutors said Cohen approached Trump Organisation executives asking to be reimbursed for “election-related” costs following the election, and that he began receiving the payments in February 2017. The document said the Trump Organisation ultimately approved $US420,000 in reimbursements to Cohen.
Specifically, prosecutors claim Cohen “sought reimbursement for that money by submitting invoices to the candidate’s company, which were untrue and false.”
“They indicated that the reimbursement was for services rendered for the year 2017, when in fact the invoices were a sham,” the document said.
This story is developing. Check back for updates.
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