The Slatest

Report: House Democrats Plan to Investigate Trump’s Role in Hush Money Payments

Stormy Daniels speaks to an interviewer.
Stormy Daniels during an interview in Berlin on Oct. 11. Ralf Hirschberger/Getty Images

Democrats in Congress plan to investigate President Trump’s involvement in payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal during the 2016 campaign, the Wall Street Journal reported.

A Democratic aide on the House Oversight Committee told the Journal that when House Democrats take majority control in January, they will move to investigate the payments that former Trump attorney Michael Cohen arranged during the campaign for the two women who said they had affairs with Trump. In the meantime, Democratic members have begun requesting records, including some from the Trump Organization.

For two years, Trump has denied both the affairs and any knowledge of the deals Cohen made. Cohen, when he pleaded guilty in August to eight felony counts, including campaign finance violations, insinuated instead that he made them at the direction of the president. On Friday, the Journal also reported that federal prosecutors have gathered evidence that the president was aware of the payments at the time. It’s not clear whether Trump’s alleged involvement would constitute a crime that he could be prosecuted for.

The Journal found that David Pecker, chief executive of American Media Inc., which publishes the National Enquirer, promised Trump in August 2015 that he would buy the silence of women who alleged affairs with Trump. In June 2016, the president took Pecker up on his offer and asked him to suppress the story of Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model. The company then paid $150,000 to McDougal to buy her story and kill it.

In October 2016, according to Cohen, Trump directed Cohen to find a way to pay adult film star Stormy Daniels. Cohen used a shell company to pay Daniels $130,000. Trump then paid Cohen back in installments.

If House Democrats open an inquiry into the payments, it could mean a path of investigation separate from special counsel Robert Mueller’s work. If they conclude Trump did commit a crime, they may push for impeachment, according to the Journal.

Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani told ABC News that any such effort would be “useless” and that calling the payments “hush payments” was “an opinion not a fact.” He claimed that the payments were not made to suppress “serious claims” but as part of a routine practice among millionaires and billionaires to avoid frivolous but inconvenient lawsuits.