The SDNY federal investigation into Michael Cohen, Donald Trump, and hush money payments made to Stormy Daniels was ended this week by Attorney General Bill Barr, not because there wasn't evidence against Trump, but because there was. So much so in fact that federal prosecutors were seriously considering indicting Trump, and that Bill Barr's first major act as Attorney General five months ago was to spike the case.
Federal prosecutors' decision to end an investigation into hush money payments to women claiming affairs with Donald Trump relied at least in part on long-standing Justice Department policy that a sitting president cannot be charged with a crime, a person familiar with the matter said Thursday.
The Justice Department told a federal judge on Monday that it had "effectively concluded" its investigation into efforts to silence the women in the final months of the 2016 campaign, but did not explain why it had done so. Prosecutors have said the payoffs violated a federal law that restricts campaign donations.
A person familiar with the case, who was not authorized to discuss it publicly, said it was unclear whether prosecutors made a determination that they had sufficient evidence to bring a case against Trump or anyone other than his former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, who pleaded guilty last year. But the Justice Department's opinion that a president cannot be indicted factored into the decision to end the probe, the person said.
Federal prosecutors had repeatedly placed Trump at the center of the effort to silence pornographic actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal during the chaotic run-up to the 2016 election. Last year, they alleged in a court filing that Cohen had orchestrated illegal hush-money payments "in coordination with and at the direction of" Trump. And it revealed in unsealed court records on Friday that Trump participated in phone calls about the payments to Daniels.
The investigation died screaming once Barr took over five months ago. Follow-up visits to the Trump Organization that were scheduled for late February never happened after Barr was sworn in. There's no other possible conclusion but that Barr committed massive obstruction of justice by interfering directly with an investigation into Donald Trump.
The decision by the FBI to unseal the investigation documents once the case ended is proof enough of this.
Donald Trump was repeatedly kept apprised of a scheme to keep adult film star Stormy Daniels silent just before the 2016 election about her alleged affair with the real estate mogul, court documents unsealed on Thursday show.
From start to finish, Trump was in regular contact with his lawyer at the time, Michael Cohen, who arranged the payment. In October, Trump was brought in on a conference call with his longtime communications adviser, Hope Hicks, to discuss efforts to purchase and kill Daniels’ story. Over the coming weeks, Trump had numerous phone calls with Cohen as he went back and forth with Daniels’ attorney. And days before the November election, after The Wall Street Journal published a story detailing a similar hush-payment Cohen also made during the campaign to Playboy model Karen McDougal, Cohen texted “he’s pissed,” an apparent reference to Trump.
The fresh details are contained in several applications for search warrants in the Southern District of New York in which FBI special agents described the evidence law enforcement had obtained showing that Cohen’s $130,000 payoff to Daniels constituted an illegal campaign contribution to Trump’s presidential campaign.
The newly unredacted portions of the applications show the FBI special agents detailing how the hush-money agreement was made — and how Cohen appeared to keep Trump in the know about the deal every step of the way. Cohen is now serving three years in prison for a series of campaign finance, tax fraud and lying charges.
Several media organizations, including POLITICO, obtained the documents through a federal judge’s order tied to the Cohen case. Among the items also released on Thursday is a letter sent earlier this week by Audrey Strauss, the lead U.S. attorney in New York on the Cohen case, notifying the judge that the government’s probe had concluded into who else might be criminally liable for the campaign finance violations to which the former Trump campaign lawyer has already pleaded guilty, as well as whether anyone else gave false statements or obstructed justice.
In other words, the FBI blatantly came clean with its documents to show that they had Trump dead to rights, but they were stopped from above. The documents also prove former Trump aide Hope Hicks lied to Congress under oath about being involved in the conversations between Cohen and Trump about the hush money payouts.
Negotiations over the hush-money deal to silence Daniels appeared to begin in earnest just after The Washington Post in early October 2016 revealed the “Access Hollywood” tape, in which Trump can be heard bragging about sexually assaulting women. In the days after that video’s release, Cohen began communicating with Daniels’ attorney, Keith Davidson, according to the FBI’s review of Cohen’s phone records, iCloud and email accounts.
“I believe that at least some of these communications concerned the need to prevent [Daniels] from going public, particularly in the wake of the Access Hollywood story,” an FBI special agent wrote in a search-warrant application.
On Oct. 8, 2016, the day the tape was released, Hicks, then the Trump campaign press secretary, called Cohen. Sixteen seconds later, Trump himself was dialed into the call, which continued for over four minutes. It was the first call Cohen had received or made to Hicks in at least several weeks, and Cohen and Trump had spoken only about once a month prior to that, according to the FBI. Cohen and Hicks spoke again for about two minutes after the call with Trump ended.
Over the next few weeks, Cohen worked to flesh out a deal with Davidson and American Media, Inc., the parent organization of the National Enquirer. The plan was to have AMI purchase and bury the story, a practice known as “catch and kill,” and Cohen would then reimburse AMI for their expenses. Cohen and Davidson worked on the arrangements with Dylan Howard, the chief content officer at AMI.
But again, nothing will happen because Bill Barr has ended the investigation. Nobody will be prosecuted. Nobody will be charged. Well, except Cohen, who is taking the fall for his boss, "Individual-1".
The most corrupt White House in history rolls on.