Trump claims payoff to women was a ‘simple private transaction’

Trump claims payoff to women was a ‘simple private transaction’

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Donald Trump makes his first appearance at the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland. July 18, 2016. Photo: Luke Vargas/Talk Media News
Donald Trump makes his first appearance at the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland. July 18, 2016. Photo: Luke Vargas/Talk Media News

WASHINGTON— President Donald Trump claimed Monday that hush money he paid to two women before the 2016 election was a “simple private transaction,” and not the felony-level campaign finance violation described by prosecutors.

In a series of tweets, Trump accused Democrats of focusing on the payments in the absence of a “Smocking Gun” [sic] showing collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

Trump also appeared to downplay the significance of breaking campaign finance laws, pointing to a 2012 instance in which the Obama campaign was fined $375,000 for failing to report 1,300 contributions from 2008 to the Federal Elections Commission on time.

The Obama matter was a civil infraction while the unreported hush money payments are considered criminal.

On Friday, prosecutors posted documents recommending a “substantial” prison sentence for the former longtime attorney for Trump, Michael Cohen.

Cohen previously pleaded guilty in August to 8 offenses, including two counts of violating campaign finance law.

According to Cohen’s plea, he was directed by then-candidate Trump, identified as “Individual 1,” to oversee payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal aimed at stopping the two women from discussing alleged affairs with Trump.

Cohen said that the payment was aimed at influencing the 2016 campaign.

In Friday’s filings, the prosecutors said Cohen “acted in coordination with and at the direction of” Trump.

Democrats seized on the development.

On Friday night, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) told MSNBC that Trump was an “unindicted co-conspirator,” prompting a profane response from the president on Twitter the following day attacking the Senator for misrepresenting his service during the Vietnam era.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee, told CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday that Trump could face jail time once he leaves office.

Trump’s dismissal of the payments as a private matter failed to convince his critics, including George Coway, an attorney and the husband of White House adviser Kellyanne Conway.

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