- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 18, 2019

Court documents released Thursday suggest that President Trump and former White House Communications Director Hope Hicks played a role in Michael Cohen’s decision to pay hush money to an adult film actress to prevent the story of her affair with Mr. Trump being released during the 2016 election.

The now unredacted documents related to investigators’ search warrants were made public per the judge’s order earlier this week wrapping up the probe into the cash payments and alleged campaign finance violations.

After the notorious “Access Hollywood” tape dropped in early October 2016, Cohen, Mr. Trump’s longtime lawyer and “fixer,” exchanged text messages, emails and calls with Keith Davidson, the attorney for adult film actress Stormy Daniels; David Pecker of American Media Inc., which publishes The National Enquirer; as well as Mr. Trump and Ms. Hicks, who handled the candidate’s communications.

Based on the content of the information, the investigator believed Cohen was attempting to keep Ms. Daniels’ story from going public following the recording of Mr. Trump caught on a hot mic bragging in vulgar terms about groping women without their permission.

In the report, the investigator said there was a short call between Cohen, Mr. Trump and Ms. Hicks on Oct. 8, 2016. After Cohen spoke to Ms. Hicks, he called Mr. Pecker. Cohen was also in communication with Ms. Daniels’ attorney during the back and forth.

Cohen remained in close contact with one of Mr. Pecker’s associates, Ms. Hicks and Ms. Daniels’ attorney for about a month — even after the $130,000 was paid to Ms. Clifford and her attorney.

In one text message exchange with Ms. Hicks days before the election, the two were concerned about a story from The Wall Street Journal detailing former Playboy model Karen McDougal’s alleged affair with Mr. Trump and suggested The National Enquirer shielded her story from becoming public to help the presidential candidate.

Ms. McDougal was also represented by the same attorney as Ms. Daniels.

“So far I only see 6 stories. Getting little to no traction,” Cohen texted. Ms. Hicks responded, “Same. Keep praying!! It’s working!”

This new evidence appears to contradict Ms. Hicks’ testimony in June where she said during a closed-door House Judiciary Committee hearing that she was “never present” for any discussions of Ms. Daniels, including her hush-money payments.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, New York Democrat, wrote a letter to Ms. Hicks Thursday asking her to clarify her previous statements.

Robert Trout, an attorney for Ms. Hicks, dismissed the suggestion she was involved at all with the hush money payments and said she’ll be formally responding to Mr. Nadler’s request.

“Reports claiming that Ms. Hicks was involved in conversations about ‘hush money’ payments on October 8, 2016, or knew that payments were being discussed, are simply wrong,” he said in a statement Friday.

“Ms. Hicks stands by her truthful testimony that she first became aware of this issue in early November 2016, as the result of press inquiries,” Mr. Trout added.

The documents, which the judge ordered to be made public Thursday, related to search warrants for Cohen’s property.

They also show Kellyanne Conway, now a White House adviser, spoke to Cohen by phone on Nov. 1, around the same time he was communicating with the others involved with the payment.

Earlier this week Jay Sekulow, Mr. Trump’s attorney, said the Trump team was pleased the Southern District of New York had finished its probe into the cash payments, calling the accusations against Mr. Trump “ridiculous.”

“We have maintained from the outset that the president never engaged in any campaign finance violations,” Mr. Sekulow said in a statement reported by Fox News.

But Cohen, now in prison for campaign-finance violations, and wire and tax fraud, fired back Thursday, saying Mr. Sekulow was being dishonest.

“As I stated in my opening testimony, I and members of The Trump Organization were directed by Mr. Trump to handle the Stormy Daniels matter; including making the hush money payment,” Cohen’s statement read.

“The conclusion of the investigation exonerating The Trump Organization’s role should be of great concern to the American people and investigated by Congress and The Department of Justice,” he added.

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