U.S.

Trump Organization Gave Michael Cohen $420,000 to Silence Women and Used False Invoices to Cover It Up

Using the Trump Organizaton, his private real estate company, President Donald Trump allegedly paid for the silence of two women who claim they'd had affairs with Trump by reimbursing his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen $420,000 through a series of false invoices, according to court documents.

While it’s been long reported that hush money had been paid to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal for alleged affairs with Trump before the 2016 election, the details about how the payments were arranged and alleged involvement by Trump were not well known.

The court documents filed Tuesday as part of Cohen’s plea deal with federal prosecutors reveal new allegations regarding the roles of the president and his organization.

As part of his plea deal, Cohen admitted to guilt on eight counts involving campaign finance violations and tax and bank fraud. The campaign finance violations were a result of his involvement with the two payments to Daniels and McDougal.

Cohen admitted he'd withheld information about hush-money payments to Daniels and McDougal  "in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office...for the principal purpose of influencing the election.” The “candidate” he referred to was reportedly Donald Trump.

Cohen had arranged for American Media Inc., run by Trump associate David Pecker and parent company of the National Inquirer, to pay $150,000 for the rights to McDougal’s story and then bury it, a strategy called "catch and kill." Cohen paid Daniels $130,000 directly from his own pocket to keep her from coming forward.

“Consistent with the agreement described above, [American Media] advised Cohen of negative stories during the course of the campaign, and Cohen, with the assistance of [American Media], was able to arrange for the purchase of two stories so as to suppress them and prevent them from influencing the election,” prosecutors allege.

In January 2017, the month Trump was sworn in to office, Cohen sent an invoice of $180,035 to the Trump Organization for reimbursement: $130,000 for his payment to Daniels, $50,000 for “tech services” for work Cohen had solicited from a technology company during the campaign and $35 for a wire transfer fee.  

Prosecutors said the reimbursements to Cohen began the following month, in February 2017. Trump Organization executives told another employee over email to “Please pay from the Trust. Post to legal expenses. Put ‘retainer for the months of January and February 2017’ in the description.” But the monetary amount was for much more than what Cohen had originally requested.

“Executives of the [Trump Organization] ‘grossed up’ for tax purposes Cohen's requested reimbursement of $180,000 to $360,000, and then added a bonus of $60,000 so that Cohen would be paid $420,000 in total,” the prosecutors allege.

The Trump Organization paid Cohen monthly amounts of $35,000 for the next 12 months as reimbursement. Throughout 2017, Cohen sent the Trump Organization monthly invoices that stated: “Pursuant to the retainer agreement, kindly remit payment for services rendered for [this month].”

The company claimed the payments were for legal services when, in fact, they were not. Cohen himself admitted that in court on Tuesday.

“In truth and in fact, there was no such retainer agreement, and the monthly invoices Cohen submitted were not in connection with any legal services he had provided in 2017,” prosecutors said

The Trump Organization did not respond to Newsweek's request for comment on Wednesday about the company’s $420,000 reimbursement to Cohen.

Minutes after Cohen pleaded guilty in court on Tuesday, Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort was found guilty on eight of 18 counts involving hiding a foreign bank account and tax and bank fraud. The judge declared a mistrial for the remaining 10 counts because of a deadlocked jury. 

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