Records detail frenetic effort to bury stories about Trump
NEW YORK (AP) — 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 — and a similar payment to Playboy model Karen McDougal — 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 gave false statements or otherwise obstructed justice. In the end, the decision was made not to bring additional charges, according to two people briefed on the matter. They were not authorized to discuss it publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan declined to comment and 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. On Thursday, Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow welcomed the closing of the investigation into the “ridiculous” allegations and denied anew that the president broke campaign finance law.
The newly unsealed court papers, consisting of search warrant applications, offered tantalizing new details about the campaign’s frenetic 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 together 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.
Prosecutors have said Pecker, a friend of Trump’s, had offered to use his company to bury negative stories in a practice known as “catch and kill.”
Cohen then phoned Trump again at 8:03 p.m. and spoke with Trump for eight minutes. That was followed by more calls minutes later between Howard and Cohen, and then a text from Howard to Cohen that read: “Keith will do it.”
“Based on the timing of these calls, and the content of the text messages and emails, I believe that at least some of these communications concerned the need to prevent Clifford from going public,” an investigator for the U.S. attorney’s office wrote, saying “Keith” referred to Daniels’ lawyer, Keith Davidson. Daniels’ real name is Stephanie Clifford.