There’s a reason Donald Trump woke up Thursday morning spewing twitter trash about “never” directing his longtime lawyer Michael Cohen to break the law and later showed up at a Fox interview, pro-Trump news clips in hand, and started reading from them after being asked about hush-money payments made to two women.
Here’s what Trump had been chewing over for nearly 24 hours: federal prosecutors from the Southern District of New York know that Trump was in the room in August 2015 when Cohen and American Media Inc. chief David Pecker hatched a scheme to keep Trump’s affairs out of public view during the campaign.
The Wall Street Journal had already placed Trump in that room in a piece last month. But for Trump personally, reading the “Statement of Admitted Facts” in AMI’s non-prosecution agreement with federal prosecutors in New York must have flipped a switch. The document stated that Pecker, Cohen, and “at least one other member of the campaign” had discussed how Pecker could “help deal with negative stories about that presidential candidate’s relationships with women.”
SDNY prosecutors had released the details of that agreement Wednesday mere minutes after Cohen was sentenced for, in part, participating in the very same plan to kill negative stories about Trump’s affairs. In other words, federal prosecutors were essentially letting Trump know that the two other people in that room had sung to them like canaries and they knew exactly who the third person in the room was.
That’s why Trump spiraled out of control Thursday. Those hush-money payments weren’t just campaign finance violations; they were part of a coordinated scheme conceived early in Trump’s candidacy to deceive the American people. With the release of the AMI agreement in concert with Cohen’s sentencing, SDNY was basically saying, Yeah, we’re looking at you, Trump. And guess what? Trump blinked.
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