In what appears to be a new development, federal prosecutors in New York are now asking the Trump Organization for records related to attorney Michael Cohen’s payment of $130,000 to adult film actress Stormy Daniels.
The request came in connection with raids by the Federal Bureau of Investigation Monday on the office, hotel room and home of Trump lawyer Michael Cohen. Mr. Cohen made the payment to Stephanie Clifford, a former porn star known professionally as Stormy Daniels, less than two weeks before the 2016 presidential election.
That prosecutors are asking for these documents immediately after the raid on Cohen’s office, a raid in which documents related to this same payment reportedly were seized, seems significant—and the risks to the Trump Organization have now been heightened. Donald Trump has personally denied knowledge of the “hush” arrangement with Daniels when questioned by reporters; the claim, which is almost certainly false, is that Cohen for some reason paid Daniels $130,000 in hush money out of his own pocket without the approval or knowledge of his client. The Trump Organization may, however, have records that indicate that is not the case.
The new request poses a key risk to the Trump company, now ostensibly helmed by the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr. After the Cohen raid, prosecutors now have in their possession whatever documents Cohen himself had related to the Daniels payment—including, presumably, any records of his communications with Trump and his company over the matter. If the Trump Organization is not forthcoming with those same documents, prosecutors will be able to argue to a judge that the company is intentionally withholding information related to the investigation—potentially setting up a warrant, and a raid, on the Trump offices themselves.
A note, yet again: These actions are being taken by New York prosecutors, not Mueller’s own investigators. Mueller is focused on events surrounding the 2016 elections and Russian involvement in those elections; upon discovering anything not within that mandate, he is required to refer the information elsewhere. That is reportedly what has happened here; while Trump openly muses over shuttering the investigation into Russia hacking, this case will proceed whether that happens or not. And federal prosecutors in New York appear to be convinced they’ve uncovered criminal activity related to the payment of “hush money” to Daniels and, possibly, Karen McDougal.
By formally requesting documents on those transactions from the Trump Organization, presumably because they now have in their possession evidence suggesting those documents exist, prosecutors may be preparing the groundwork for an FBI-led raid on the Trump family business itself. And that is a very, very big deal.