According to a new Wall Street Journal report, Trump was deeply involved in those hush payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, who had alleged sexual encounters with him. He was “involved in or briefed on nearly every step,” reporters Joe Palazzolo, Nicole Hong, Michael Rothfeld, Rebecca Davis O’Brien, and Rebecca Ballhaus write.
That matters because, as a candidate for office, Trump may have violated campaign finance law by not disclosing these payments. Cohen has already pleaded guilty to two campaign finance charges in connection with all this back in August.
Since Cohen’s plea deal, the state of this investigation — which is being run by the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) — has been somewhat unclear. All we knew for sure was that it wasn’t over, since federal prosecutors said the grand jury probe was “ongoing” in a court filing last month. And now, per the Journal, “the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan has gathered evidence of Mr. Trump’s participation in the transactions.”
Earlier this week, Trump pushed out Attorney General Jeff Sessions and installed a loyalist, Matt Whitaker, at the top of the Justice Department. Whitaker has a history of criticizing the Mueller probe and may want to try and protect the president. But in his new role, he’ll gain authority over and visibility into the SDNY probe too — and that’s a probe that could be very threatening to Trump as well.
The Wall Street Journal story is behind a seemingly airtight paywall but Vox has the details of what supposedly happened, most of which you probably know, how deeply Trump was involved, and the exposure that presents the sitting president of the United States. It's worth a read.