Trump was in the room during hush money negotiations: report

This could place Trump in the middle of the conspiracy to commit campaign finance fraud, an expert says

By Nicole Karlis

Senior Writer

Published December 13, 2018 8:34PM (EST)

David Pecker; Donald Trump (AP/Marion Curtis/Alex Brandon)
David Pecker; Donald Trump (AP/Marion Curtis/Alex Brandon)

NBC News is reporting they have confirmation that President Donald Trump was the third person in the room during an August 2015 meeting with Michael Cohen and David Pecker, publisher of the National Enquirer. The meeting reportedly served as an opportunity to discuss ways Pecker could help mitigate negative stories about Trump and his relationships with women. The report says that while it is unclear what Trump said, he was in the room for the discussion.

The Wall Street Journal first reported Trump was in the meeting in November.

American Media Inc., the National Enquirer's parent company, admitted the following on Wednesday as part of a non-prosecution agreement:"Pecker offered to help deal with negative stories about that presidential candidate's relationships with women by, among other things, assisting the campaign in identifying such stories so they could be purchased and their publication avoided."

The "statement of admitted facts" claims the company confessed to making a $150,000 payment "in concert with the campaign." It also says the meeting consisted of Pecker, Cohen, and "at least one other member of the campaign." A person familiar with the matter, NBC News reports, says the "other member" was Trump.

Details regarding what Trump allegedly said are unclear. However, Trump's presence could place him "in the middle of a conspiracy to commit campaign finance fraud." As NBC News reported:

Daniel Goldman, an NBC News analyst and former assistant U.S. attorney said the agreement doesn't detail what Trump said and did in the meeting. "But if Trump is now in the room, as early as August of 2015 and in combination with the recording where Trump clearly knows what Cohen is talking about with regarding to David Pecker, you now squarely place Trump in the middle of a conspiracy to commit campaign finance fraud."

A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, which investigated Cohen's hush-money payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, declined to comment.

The statement of admitted facts, according to NBC, says the the purpose of the payment "was to suppress the woman's story so as to prevent it from influencing the election."

Cohen was sentenced to a total of 36 months behind bars on Wednesday, in addition to three years of post-release supervision, for tax evasion, and violating campaign finance law, among other charges. He must turn himself in and start serving his sentence by March 6.

On Twitter on Thursday, Trump said he never told Cohen "to break the law."

"He was a lawyer and he is supposed to know the law," Trump said in a series of tweeted. "It is called 'advice of counsel,' and a lawyer has great liability if a mistake is made. That is why they get paid."

By Nicole Karlis

Nicole Karlis is a senior writer at Salon, specializing in health and science. Tweet her @nicolekarlis.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Campaign Finance Fraud David Pecker Donald Trump Michael Cohen