Donald Trump: Hush money payouts were not 'a campaign violation'

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Donald Trump has said the hush money paid to two women who say they had affairs with the President did not break election campaign rules as he paid them personally.

The President also hit back at his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, who pleaded guilty to breaking laws during the 2016 presidential election over his handling of the payments.

He accused Cohen of lying under pressure of prosecution as his White House grappled with allegations that the president had orchestrated a campaign cover-up to buy the silence of two women who claimed he had affairs with them.

Confronting mounting legal and political threats, Mr Trump tweeted to accuse Cohen of making up "stories in order to get a 'deal'" from federal prosecutors.

Cohen pleaded guilty on Tuesday to eight charges, including campaign finance violations that he said he carried out in coordination with Mr Trump.

At a White House briefing, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders insisted at least seven times that Mr Trump had done nothing wrong and was not the subject of criminal charges.

She referred substantive questions to the president's personal counsel Rudy Giuliani, who was at a golf course in Scotland.

Mr Trump himself publicly denied wrongdoing, sitting down with his favoured programme Fox & Friends for an interview set to air on Thursday.

In the interview, he argued, incorrectly, that the hush money payouts were not "even a campaign violation" because he subsequently reimbursed Cohen for the payments personally instead of with campaign funds.

Federal law restricts how much individuals can donate to a campaign, bars corporations from making direct contributions and requires the disclosure of transactions.

Read more: Donald Trump: Can he survive as president after Michael Cohen's guilty plea?

Cohen had said on Tuesday he secretly used shell companies to make payments used to silence former Playboy model Karen McDougal and adult-film actress Stormy Daniels for the purpose of influencing the 2016 election.

Mr Trump has insisted that he only found out about the payments after they were made, despite the release of a September 2016 taped conversation in which Mr Trump and Cohen can be heard discussing a deal to pay Ms McDougal for her story of a 2006 affair she says she had with Mr Trump.

The White House denied the president had lied, with Ms Sanders calling the assertion "ridiculous". Yet she offered no explanation for Mr Trump's shifting accounts.