- President Donald Trump’s legal troubles with his former lawyer Michael Cohen took a damaging twist on Thursday.
- Lawyer Michael Avenatti alleged Cohen had evidence of Trump paying off multiple women and tried to cover up a pregnancy.
- Stories alleging that Trump paid off women or hid a pregnancy, or even a child, have long been brushed off by the president.
- But if Cohen provides evidence of this, it could seriously damage Trump.
- Increasingly, Cohen, Trump’s longtime personal lawyer and holder of many of his personal secrets, appears to be flipping on his former boss.
President Donald Trump’s legal troubles with his former lawyer Michael Cohen took another, damaging twist on Thursday when Michael Avenatti, the attorney for porn star Stormy Daniels, alleged that multiple women had been paid off, and that Trump may even have covered up a pregnancy.
“Donald Trump conspired with Michael Cohen to pay off multiple other women prior to Election Day in 2016. They were also concerned about a pregnancy. Cohen has evidence and info in his possession and it must be released to the public,” Avenatti tweeted.
Trump already stands accused of having paid off Daniels, and in tapes published by the New York Times, Trump and Cohen are on record discussing making payments to former Playboy model Karen McDougal.
Additionally, Trump has long been plagued by rumors that he fathered an illegitimate child and paid a former Trump Tower doorman $30,000 to keep quiet about the affair.
In short, it’s nothing new that Trump may have paid off multiple women to keep quiet, or that he may have been “concerned” about a pregnancy. Trump has brushed these stories off for years.
But what’s new and especially threatening to Trump’s presidency is Cohen’s material, of which there seems to be plenty.
The government seized at last 12 audio tapes from Cohen, Trump’s former longtime lawyer, a court filing on Monday revealed.
When the FBI raided Cohen’s office in April, it seized 4 million other documents, many of which have proven to be outside attorney-client privilege.
It’s legal to pay people off to keep quiet about affairs via nondisclosure agreements, and doing so falls far short of a legally prosecutable “conspiracy,” as Avenatti suggested.
If Trump made the alleged payments with his own funds, and made the payments strictly for personal, not campaign reasons, he could be legally in the clear. But the proximity of the payments to the election raise serious legal questions about use of campaign finances.
Trump is legally bound to disclose campaign donations and expenditures, and the payments, which Trump denies happening, allegedly made to McDougal and Daniels went unreported by both Cohen and Trump.
Facing an FBI investigation after years of acting as a “fixer” for Trump, Cohen, also a key figure in the Russia investigation, increasingly appears to have flipped on his former boss in what’s quickly become the greatest legal threat to his presidency.
Trump responded to the tapes by saying Cohen taping him was “totally unheard of & perhaps illegal,” though in New York only one party needs to consent to taping.
Cohen’s lawyer went on CNN to discuss the tapes, citing Trump suggesting cash to make a payment in the audio as something only “drug dealers and mobsters” use.
Trump and Cohen have reportedly not spoken since the April FBI raid. For years, Trump has relied on Cohen to keep secrets and make problems go away.
As investigators pry deeper and deeper into Cohen’s deep archive of documents as a Trump employee, those secrets and problems look posed to revisit Trump.