Documents released on Thursday demonstrate that the FBI believed Donald Trump, as a candidate for president in 2016, was directly involved in a chain of conversations with several actors partaking in the silencing of an adult film actress through the use of hush-money payments.
The release of those documents, which were part of a Justice Department probe into the possibility of campaign finance violations by Trump or his company, was made following the conclusion of the investigation itself. Judge William Pauley III ordered the documents to be made public as a matter of national interest, NBC News reported.
“The campaign finance violations discussed in the materials are a matter of national importance,” Pauley said. “Now that the government’s investigation into those violations has concluded, it is time that every American has an opportunity to scrutinize the materials.”
According to the documents released, there were a “series of calls, text messages, and emails” between Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen, then-campaign aide Hope Hicks, Keith Davidson (Daniels’s lawyer), and Trump himself. Communications with David Pecker, a former executive at National Enquirer, were also discovered.
An FBI agent’s report of those communications explained that the parties involved felt there was a “need to prevent [Daniels] from going public, particularly in the wake of the Access Hollywood hidden video that had broken that same month.
The FBI agent recounts how, the day after the Access Hollywood tape on 10/7/16, Cohen had a series of phone calls over the course of two hours with Hope Hicks, then-candidate Trump, and two AMI execs, David Pecker and Dylan Howard. The Stormy Daniels letter was signed 10/10/16 pic.twitter.com/rKHQsiujMJ
— Zoe Tillman (@ZoeTillman) July 18, 2019
The investigation was helped in large part due to Cohen pleading guilty last year to campaign finance violations relating to the hush-money payments. Cohen made that guilty plea in August 2018, and later at a plea hearing, said he was acting in concert with and at the direction of “a federal candidate for federal office,” later revealed to be Trump, ABC News reported.
Failure to disclose campaign expenditures to the Federal Elections Commission is a federal crime. Payments to Daniels fall under the purview of the law, as they were made to influence a federal election.
Although they’re probably unhappy with what information was released by the court, Trump’s lawyers have actually lauded the release of documents as a sign that the investigation into their client is over, without any charges.
Cohen, meanwhile, who is serving a three-year prison sentence as part of his plea arrangement, said the conclusion of the investigation without action by the Justice Department is alarming.
“The conclusion of the investigation exonerating The Trump Organization’s role should be of great concern to the American people and investigated by Congress and the Department of Justice,” Cohen said in a statement.