House Democrats plan to make former Trump attorney Michael Cohen’s payments to two women alleging affairs with President Trump a “major investigative focus” this fall, according to a new report.
The Washington Post reported Tuesday:
The House Judiciary Committee is preparing to hold hearings and call witnesses involved in hush-money payments to ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal and adult-film star Stormy Daniels as soon as October, according to people familiar with the plans who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal discussions.
Democrats say they believe there is already enough evidence to name Trump as a co-conspirator in the episode that resulted in his former attorney, Michael Cohen, pleading guilty to two campaign finance charges.
Cohen, who is serving a three-year prison sentence, has claimed that President Trump directed him to make the payments, although federal prosecutors declined to bring any charges against the president.
Trump’s attorney Jay Sekulow said in a statement to the Post, “No campaign violations were engaged in by the president.”
The Post described the plans as “a new chapter” in House Democrats’ consideration of whether to draft articles of impeachment against the president.
The House Judiciary Committee is already looking at whether the president obstructed justice and should be impeached — which Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) has claimed constitute “formal impeachment proceedings.”
But with a recent poll showing that 59% of American voters oppose impeachment, Democrats who back impeachment may be feeling the pressure to come up with more to sway public opinion.
Progressive activists fear that Trump may win another term, and have been pushing their representatives to pursue impeachment before that happens. However, even if a majority in the House voted to impeach Trump, two-thirds of the Senate would have to agree in order for Trump to actually leave office. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), aware of that reality, has pushed back against impeachment.
House Judiciary Democrats plan to explore whether the investigation into the payments was obstructed, and are considering calling American Media Inc. (AMI) Chairman and CEO David Pecker to testify.
AMI is the parent company of the National Enquirer, which made a payment to Karen McDougal of $150,000 before the election. AMI reportedly has turned over all its communications to Democrats that they gave law enforcement officials.
Cohen has previously testified that he worked “in coordination with and at the direction” of Trump to work with Pecker to pay McDougal, and that he worked “in coordination” with Trump to arrange a $130,000 payment to Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford.
Prosecutors argued that the payments were “in-kind donations” to Trump’s presidential campaign, in violation of a ban on corporate contributions and limits on campaign contributions. The Judiciary committee has authorized subpoenas for Pecker and National Enquirer editor Dylan Howard.