REPS LIEU AND RICE CALL FOR FBI INVESTIGATION INTO POTENTIAL ILLEGAL CAMPAIGN PAYMENTS BY TRUMP ASSOCIATES
WASHINGTON – Today, Congressman Ted W. Lieu (D-Los Angeles County) and Congresswoman Kathleen Rice (D-NY) requested that FBI Director Christopher Wray open an investigation into two questionable payments made by President Trump’s longtime associates during the election. Just before the election, President Trump’s longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen made a $130,000 payment to Stephanie Clifford, who allegedly had an affair with President Trump, as a way to buy her silence. Similarly, the National Enquirer paid Karen McDougal, another person who allegedly had an affair with Mr. Trump, $150,000 for her story, only to never publish it. If these allegations of improper payments are true, they could represent marked violations of Federal Election laws.
In the letter, the Members write:
- As Members of Congress, we are troubled by these payments because they are evidence of moral failings by the President. As former prosecutors, we believe these payments may be felonies.
- Michael Cohen, Mr. Trump’s longtime lawyer and a former Executive Vice President of the Trump Organization, has admitted to paying $130,000 out of his own pocket to pornographic film actress Stephanie Clifford (a.k.a. Stormy Daniels), who allegedly had an affair with Trump. The payment was made in October 2016 purportedly to keep her silent about the affair. The New York Times has reported that Stormy Daniels “is one of at least two women who claimed to have had affairs with Mr. Trump but who were kept silent through legal agreements.” The second questionable payment is to former Playboy centerfold model Karen McDougal.
- American Media Inc., the owner of National Enquirer, allegedly paid $150,000 to Ms. McDougal on August 5, 2016, to buy her silence. The CEO and Chairman of A.M.I., David Pecker, describes Trump as “a personal friend.” According to the The New Yorker, “purchasing a story in order to bury it is a practice that many in the tabloid industry call ‘catch and kill.’” The company does not deny killing Ms. McDougal’s story, nor does it deny purchasing her story. Jerry George, a former editor at A.M.I., stated that Pecker protected Trump and that “we never printed a word about Trump without his approval.”
- Payments to silence individuals with negative information about then-candidate Trump may violate federal election laws. The Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) prevents companies, other than through a political action committee, from contributing to a federal campaign and puts a strict $5,400 limit for individual contributions. A contribution is defined as “anything of value given, loaned or advanced to influence a federal election.” Such contributions also include in-kind contributions. As the FEC states, “An expenditure made by any person or entity in cooperation, consultation or concert with, or at the request or suggestion of, a candidate’s campaign is also considered an in-kind contribution to the candidate.”
READ THE FULL TEXT OF THE LETTER HERE