Federal prosecutors reportedly almost charged former President Donald Trump with campaign finance violations in connection with the hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels as he left the White House, according to an upcoming book.
The feds declined to indict Trump because of the certain political blowback and also because the Jan. 6 attack and his effort to overturn the 2020 election “made the campaign finance violations seem somehow trivial and outdated,” CNN legal analyst Elie Honig revealed Friday.
“We were well aware of the (prudent) reasons why you wouldn’t charge a president, even after he was out of office,” a source told Honig for his forthcoming book “Untouchable: How Powerful People Get Away with It.”
With the feds dropping the case, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is actively considering filing state charges against Trump, who allegedly directed ex-fixer Michael Cohen to pay off Daniels to keep quiet about a sexual tryst she says she had with Trump in 2006.
Cohen last week submitted to a new round of questioning by Manhattan prosecutors in a sign that Bragg may eventually move to charge Trump.
Once a loyal lieutenant, Cohen broke with Trump, pleaded guilty in 2018 and served federal prison time for his role in the hush money scheme.
He has said he paid Daniels and former Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal at the expressed direction of Trump, who wanted to keep the porn star quiet in the final days before the 2016 presidential election.
Southern District of New York prosecutors never considered charging Trump at the time of Cohen’s trial because they felt they were bound by a Justice Department legal opinion that bars charging a sitting president.
They did mull revealing Trump’s role in the scheme after Cohen was charged and even drafted a detailed indictment that would have fingered Trump by name.
“The SDNY’s draft indictment left no doubt: Trump wasn’t merely a bystander or an unwitting beneficiary of the campaign finance crime,” Honig wrote. “He was the driving force behind the scheme, and likely criminally liable for it.”
But the feds wound up opting for a much more cautious approach, scrubbing most of the accusations aimed at Trump and euphemistically referring to him only as “Individual 1.”
In the dying days of Trump’s rule, then-SDNY U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss held meetings about charging Trump as soon as he was no longer president, when the DOJ edict would no longer apply. But they decided to drop the matter.
Bragg initially was said to also have cold feet about prosecuting Trump and two top prosecutors who were leading the investigation left in disgust over his cautious approach.
But he won a conviction of the Trump Organization in a fraud case in which he flipped chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg, who is now serving a five-month prison term.
And now his prosecutors are again eyeing charges in the Daniels case.
In an odd twist, a Russian-American real estate mogul who was once accused of being a go-between in the hush money case recently made headlines as one of the key financial backers of Rep. George Santos.
Andrew Intrater, a supporter of Trump whose cousin is an oligarch crony of Russian strongman Vladimir Putin, insists he was duped by Santos, who has admitted lying extensively about his background.
The normally talkative Cohen has never said who if anyone repaid him for the money he forked out to Daniels on Trump’s behalf. Intrater denied any roll in the illicit payments to Daniels or Cohen.
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