Mon, Sep 03, 2018 - Page 7 News List

Hush payments spell danger for Trump

Donald Trump took an extraordinary risk to keep alleged extramarital affairs secret, a concern that feels somewhat quaint in the context of his public behavior

By Tom McCarthy  /  The Guardian

To pay Daniels, Cohen set up Essential Consultants LLC, a shell company he told the bank was part of his real-estate business. Instead, he deposited US$130,000 in the company account which then was wired to Daniels’ lawyer.

After the election, in transactions whose recklessness seems indicative of Cohen’s regard for banking laws, US corporations would transfer hundreds of thousands of dollars to the account for Cohen’s consulting services, and Cohen would use the account to pay private club dues.

Observing these suspect money flows, the bank filed multiple alerts with US federal regulators, as required by law. Prosecutors began to look into it. Soon afterward, FBI agents raided Cohen’s office and residences, and his vow to protect the president became an accusation in open court that Trump made him do it.

In other words, there is a direct link between Trump sitting on a tour bus counseling Billy Bush to “Grab ’em by the pussy” and Trump on the run from his own justice department.

Pull one thread of irony, and others appear. For example, there is evidence that Trump need not have worried about voters abandoning him because of anything Daniels or McDougal had to say.

Former Trump adviser Sam Nunberg said that neither voters nor Trump supporters in the US Congress were concerned by his alleged affairs.

“The fact that these affairs come up has not moved the dial on this president being impeached,” Nunberg said, noting that Trump continues to poll well among evangelical Christians and other so-called “values voters.”

“They may be offended by it, but you know what? In hindsight, they’re offended by being used by [former US president] George W. Bush,” Nunberg said of evangelicals.

The former president endorsed civil unions for same-sex couples after leaning on evangelicals for his election.

It is possible that some development in a current or future scandal might pose a greater legal liability for Trump than he currently faces.

The Journal on Friday reported that Allen Weisselberg, for decades chief financial officer of the Trump Organization and the man named by Trump to run the businesses during his presidency, had reached an immunity deal to testify about Cohen.

If prosecutors begin to dig around Trump’s business, it could spell trouble for him and members of his family, said Tim O’Brien, a financial journalist and Trump biographer.

“Weisselberg’s cooperation takes the Mueller and SDNY investigations out of some of the penny ante stuff in play so far and into the heart of the Trump Organization and President Trump’s business history,” O’Brien tweeted. “The game gets started here.”

For now, Trump is dealing with the consequences of a decision two years ago to attempt to conceal alleged adultery with alleged campaign finance violations.

Williams called that decision “puzzling.”

“The first thing that’s really puzzling is what it means that anyone would think that the ‘crime’ involving sex and gender that would be unforgivable is adultery rather than all of the misogyny,” she said. “I think that this is a powerful moment where we see that, even as much progress as we think we’ve made in terms of women’s liberation and a feminist sensibility, that nonetheless sex scandals reveal an incredibly traditional, not to say archaic, morality that shrouds issues of sex and gender.”

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