Keeping track of all the Trump cases is challenging. After all, there are four criminal cases pending, and the New York civil fraud case current being tried. I turn to one of the criminal cases that has not been in the news much lately. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg secured a grand jury indictment of Donald Trump on 34 counts of business fraud associated with hush money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels. In that case Trump motioned to dismiss on a variety of grounds that I believe are unlikely to prevail. Today, Bragg filed his brief opposing Trump’s motion to dismiss. You can read that brief HERE:
It’s a long brief, and redactions make it difficult to read, but the introduction is un-redacted, short and worth reading. What I found interesting was its statement that Trump, “orchestrated — and then tried to conceal — a scheme with others to influence the 2016 presidential election by identifying and purchasing negative information about him to suppress its publication and benefit his electoral prospects.”
I found that election influencing part of interesting. I’m aware of it, and I wrote about it way back in 2018 with articles with the names: “Trump And The National Enquirer: “A New Kind Of Collusion” and “The Mystery of the McDougal Payments.”
The essence of this is that Trump conspired with the owner of the National Enquirer, a man named David Pecker. Pecker reasoned that he would receive advance notice of negative information on Trump. They then conspired for the National Enquirer to pay for exclusive rights to such stories, and then not publish it, an arrangement called “catch and kill.”
If that sounds crazy to you, it was actually done at least three times and in all three instances potentially impacted the election by keeping the stories concealed from the public until after the election.
The first was a story from a former doorman at Trump Tower about an alleged out-of-wedlock child Trump had with a housekeeper. Hearing in advance of the story The National Enquirer bought exclusive rights to publish the story from the doorman for $30,000 and then, of course (per the conspiracy), did not publish it. The National Enquirer committed its own business fraud in concealing the payment as a promotional expense but has not been prosecuted as part of an immunity agreement for cooperation.
The second was a story from former Playboy model Karen McDougal who claimed she had a nine month affair with Trump, in 2006, while he was married Melania, shortly after she gave birth to Barron Trump. The National Enquirer paid McDougal $150,000 for exclusive rights to that story and then didn’t publish it.
The third such case is the now familiar Stormy Daniels story. For this they did things a bit different, and that difference creates the current criminal case against Trump. The National Enquirer tipped off then Trump attorney Michael Cohen about Stormy Daniels, but by then it was getting cold feet about making the payments itself. Cohen negotiated the deal with Daniels’s attorney himself.
After the $130,000 hush money payment was negotiated Trump suggested paying it by check, but Cohen disagreed. With Trump’s knowledge and agreement, Cohen created a shell company. Cohen borrowed the $130,000 from a bank, falsely telling the bank it was for a real estate deal. That’s bank fraud for which Michael Cohen went to jail. The shell company wrote the check to Stormy.
Then came the matter of Trump having to pay Cohen back. Trump made the payments, from his company, back to Cohen’s shell company, in a series of payments (totaling much more than the original amount) characterized as legal expenses for what was a sham “retainer agreement” with Cohen. That false characterization in the business records is the fraud for which Trump is now charged.
Now to get back to my point. This was obviously a conspiracy to conceal negative information to help Trump get elected. It quite likely did help Trump get elected. The Stormy Daniels story, if released when she began trying to sell it, would have been near the time of the Access Hollywood tape where Trump boasted of sexually assaulting women. Dovetailing with that could have been quite impactful.
However, the point here now is that Trump and Republicans are screaming that Biden supposedly concealed the Hunter laptop story. Accepting that as true, Trump concealed allegations of an illegitimate child and affairs with two adult industry stars, to get elected. Further, he paid money to do it. What’s more Trump’s effort to conceal those three stories until after the election were completely successful. The Hunter story was largely out by the election, though muddled as to its accuracy.
Of course you might point out that Trump is being prosecuted for it while Biden is not. However, Trump is only being prosecuted because he broke the law to conceal the whole thing by creating fraudulent business records. Biden didn’t do that.
There is one other portion of the brief I would like to quote:
“Defendant repeatedly suggests that because he is a current presidential candidate, the ordinary rules for criminal law and procedure should be applied differently here. This argument is essentially an attempt to evade criminal responsibility because defendant is politically powerful.”