Details from New York prosecutor’s Trump hush-money indictment
(This April 4 story has been refiled to correct a typographical error in paragraph 9)
(Reuters) – Former President Donald Trump was charged in court on Tuesday with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records, as prosecutors accused him of paying two women to suppress their accounts of sexual encounters with him.
Here are some highlights from the indictment and statement of facts released by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office:
The indictment sets out 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in the first degree, which each carry a maximum charge of four years in prison. Trump pleaded not guilty.
Each count covers an individual record related to payments by Trump to his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen between February and December 2017, the first year Trump was in the White House.
According to Bragg, those payments were not for legal services, as they claimed, but were to reimburse Cohen for paying $130,000 to porn star Stormy Daniels for her silence during the 2016 election campaign. Daniels said she and Trump had a sexual encounter in 2006, the year after he married Melania Knauss, his third wife.
Trump denies having an encounter with Daniels but has acknowledged the payment.
Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to federal campaign-finance charges related to the payments and said he acted at Trump’s direction.
According to a separate legal document called a statement of facts that accompanies the indictment, Trump falsified those records as he worked with Cohen and others to cover up a series of unflattering stories that threatened his 2016 presidential bid. Along the way, he and others violated election laws, the statement of facts said.
Eyes and ears
According to prosecutors, tabloid publisher David Pecker met with Trump at Trump Tower in August 2015, shortly after he announced his presidential bid, and offered to act as “eyes and ears” for the campaign by looking out for negative stories and alerting Cohen before they were published.
Pecker, who served as publisher of the National Enquirer and chief executive of American Media Inc (AMI), also agreed to publish negative stories about Trump rivals.
AMI admitted to the arrangement in a non-prosecution agreement with the Manhattan District Attorney’s office in 2018.
The doorman’s tale
In October or November of 2015, Pecker learned that a former Trump Tower doorman was saying that Trump had allegedly fathered a child out of wedlock and paid him $30,000 for the rights to the story. AMI later concluded the story was not true.
According to prosecutors, AMI paid $150,000 to buy the silence of a woman to keep quiet about an alleged affair with Trump. That woman, who is not named, matches the description of former Playboy model Karen McDougal, 52, who has publicly talked about her relationship with Trump and her arrangement with AMI.
Pecker made the payment after discussing it with Cohen and Trump, according to the charges, with the understanding that Trump would pay him back.
Trump and Cohen discussed repayment in a conversation captured in an audio recording in September 2016 and made plans to do so. But Pecker declined to take the money after talking with his company’s lawyer.
In October 2016, the campaign was reeling after the release of a video from 2005 in which Trump made crude comments about women on the set of the “Access Hollywood” TV show.
Around that time, Pecker connected Cohen with a lawyer for Daniels, who said she had an affair with Trump as well. The two sides agreed on a $130,000 payment, but Trump urged Cohen to delay writing a check until after the November election, when Daniels’s claim would not affect the outcome.
Payments and more payments
Cohen ultimately took out a $131,000 home equity line of credit in late October 2016 and paid Daniels through a shell company, according to the charges, with the understanding that Trump would pay him back.
After the election, Trump’s chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg agreed to reimburse Cohen double the amount owed, to cover anticipated taxes as well as a $60,000 year-end bonus – $420,000 in all.
Cohen was paid in monthly $35,000 installments through 2017 that were falsely characterized as payment for legal services.
After federal authorities began investigating Cohen in April 2018, Bragg’s office accused Trump of pressuring him not to cooperate, both in private phone calls and through public comments on Twitter.
Cohen ultimately pleaded guilty in August 2018.
(Compiled by Costas Pitas and Andy Sullivan; editing by Grant McCool)