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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:
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