Federal prosecutors have ended their investigation into payments from then-candidate Donald Trump to porn star Stormy Daniels, which Trump’s critics had hoped would lead to his arrest or impeachment.
Last August, former Trump attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to a variety of offenses, including campaign contribution violations. He told a federal court in New York that he had arranged payments to Daniels (whose real name is Stephanie Clifford) and former Playboy model Karen McDougal at Trump’s direction. In November, he also pleaded guilty to lying to Congress.
In their sentencing memorandum, prosecutors drew attention to the payments, leading observers to speculate that they would try to indict the president on campaign finance violations.
Michael Avenatti, Daniels’s attorney at the time, told NPR in August: “Donald Trump is either going to resign. He’s going to be removed from office by impeachment, or I’m going to beat him in 2020.”
Critics such as Alan Dershowitz argued that there was no case against the president, both because the president was entitled to direct that his own money be spent, and because he might not have had to report spending with a legitimate personal purpose.
The judge in the Cohen case ordered the unsealing of documents from the investigation, in the public interest, a step that usually suggests there will be no further prosecutions. Politico reported on Wednesday:
A federal probe into hush money payments made to protect Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign has concluded, according to a judge’s order released Wednesday.
Last week, CNN reported that officials at the Trump Organization haven’t had any contact with SDNY officials for more than five months, and a source tied to the president’s namesake company isn’t disputing that story.
Jay Sekulow, a personal attorney for the president, welcomed the news. “We are pleased that the investigation surrounding these ridiculous campaign finance allegations is now closed,” he said in a text message. “We have maintained from the outset that the President never engaged in any campaign finance violation…Another case is closed.”
CNN and other outlets had previously asserted — as news — that Trump had “literally” broken campaign finance laws.
Cohen began a three-year sentence in federal prison in May. Avenatti is facing federal charges in both Los Angeles and New York.