(Steven Hirsch/New York Post via AP, Pool)
- State attorneys and former prosecutors worried that Trump’s indictment would solely revolve around Michael Cohen as a witness.
- But Trump’s indictment depends on more than Cohen — the NY DA alleges Trump paid off another woman, too.
- The payments also happened while Trump was president, which could complicate matters.
Before President Donald Trump was indicted by a grand jury convened by the Manhattan district attorney, attorneys were reportedly concerned that the indictment against the former executive only focused on a “hush-money” case involving the adult film actress Stormy Daniels and Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen.
Cohen previously spent time in prison for campaign finance violations, tax evasion, and making false statements to a bank.
Mark Bederow, a former prosecutor, previously told Insider that resting an indictment of this caliber solely on Cohen would be disastrous.
“That’s a disaster as a prosecutor,” Bederow said. “You wouldn’t rely on Michael Cohen to tell you the time of day unless you corroborated it with a clock. That’s how awful a witness he is.”
Former US attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, Barbara McQuade, echoed Bederow in a separate interview with Insider, noting that “the more the case relies on documents instead of the testimony of Michael Cohen, the stronger it will be.”
On Tuesday, now that the details of the indictment have been released by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg Jr., it appears that McQuade, Bederow, and other prosecutors’ concerns should be quelled: the case appears to depend on more than just Cohen and Daniels.
Not built on Cohen alone
Prosecutors have zeroed in on other instances beyond Daniels. An accompanying statement of facts underlines how the indictment rests on the core of a so-called “Catch and Kill” scheme that Trump allegedly concocted with David Pecker, who was at the time the publisher of the National Enquirer. Prosecutors claim the pair worked together to find a way to effectively silence people who claimed to have embarrassing stories about Trump by paying them off through side deals.
Like Daniels, prosecutors allege that Trump, Pecker, and Cohen teamed up to silence former Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal in June 2016. McDougal is not directly named in the statement of facts, but the details make clear that the case is also about an alleged $150,000 payment to silence her claims about an alleged affair with Trump. Pecker testified multiple times before the grand jury that indicted the former president.
Another part of the scheme involved Dino Sajudin, a former Trump Tower doorman, who allegedly received $30,000 in 2015 to not go public with allegations that Trump had a child out of wedlock. According to the statement of facts, AMI did not investigate Sajudin’s claims and ultimately determined them to be false.
The checks were cut during the Trump presidency
Additionally, as per the charging documents, Cohen worked out a hush-money payment with Daniels in order to “secure [her] silence and prevent disclosure of the damaging information in the final weeks before the presidential election.”
As was previously reported, the Trump Organization allegedly authorized $420,000 in payments to Cohen, which was to be paid out monthly in $35,000 increments.
But according to the statement of facts, the reimbursement payments were purposely shielded by designating the monthly checks as “legal services,” in an agreement that was hashed out in the Oval Office in February 2017, only weeks after Trump had taken office.
“The checks and stubs bearing the false statements were stapled to the invoices also bearing false statements,” the document stated. “The Defendant signed each of the checks personally and had them sent back to the Trump Organization in New York County.”
Trump pleaded not guilty to all counts. He has repeatedly described the investigation as akin to a witch hunt, criticizing prosecutor, grand jury, and even judge as biased. Since being arraigned, he has since added “nothing done illegally.”