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story.lead_photo.caption This combination of file photo shows, from left, President Donald Trump, attorney Michael Cohen and adult film actress Stormy Daniels. Search warrants unsealed Thursday, July 18, 2019, shed new light on the president's role as his campaign scrambled to respond to media inquiries about hush money paid to two women who said they had affairs with him. The investigation involved payments Cohen helped orchestrate to Daniels and Playboy centerfold Karen McDougal.

NEW YORK -- Court records released Thursday show that President Donald Trump took part in a flurry of phone calls in the weeks before the 2016 election as his close aides and allies scrambled to pay porn actress Stormy Daniels to keep quiet about an alleged affair.

The documents detailing calls and text messages were made public as federal prosecutors closed their investigation into the payoff -- and a similar payment to Playboy model Karen McDougal -- with no plans to charge anyone in the scandal beyond Trump's former lawyer, Michael Cohen.

Federal prosecutors in New York said in a court filing that they investigated whether other people gave false statements or otherwise obstructed justice. In the end, the decision was made not to file additional charges, according to two people briefed on the matter. They were not authorized to discuss it publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan declined to comment and did not explain its decision not to prosecute anyone else. U.S. Justice Department policy prohibits the indictment of a sitting president.

The White House had no immediate comment on the latest documents. On Thursday, Trump's lawyer, Jay Sekulow, welcomed the closing of the investigation into the "ridiculous" allegations and denied anew that the president broke campaign finance law.

The newly unsealed court papers, consisting of search warrant applications, offered new details about the campaign's efforts to quash stories about the alleged affairs.

The documents cite records showing Trump spoke on the phone with Cohen at least five times between Oct. 8 and Oct. 28 as Trump's campaign rushed in the closing weeks of the campaign to keep a lid on tales of his alleged misconduct.

In the series of calls that began at 7:20 p.m. on Oct. 8, Trump, Cohen and Trump spokesman, Hope Hicks, spoke together on the phone for several minutes, followed immediately by a series of calls between Cohen and David Pecker, president of American Media Inc., the parent company of the National Enquirer, and the company's chief content officer, Dylan Howard.

Prosecutors have said Pecker, a friend of Trump's, had offered to use his company to bury negative stories in a practice known as "catch and kill."

Cohen then phoned Trump again at 8:03 p.m. and spoke with Trump for eight minutes. That was followed by more calls minutes later between Howard and Cohen, and then a text from Howard to Cohen that read, "Keith will do it."

"Based on the timing of these calls, and the content of the text messages and emails, I believe that at least some of these communications concerned the need to prevent Clifford from going public," an investigator for the U.S. attorney's office wrote, saying "Keith" referred to Daniels' lawyer, Keith Davidson. Daniels' real name is Stephanie Clifford.

The hush-money payments were not initially reported on campaign-finance documents and far exceeded the legal limits on contributions. Trump, after initially denying knowledge of the matter, has since described the payments as "private transactions."

Cohen pleaded guilty last year to campaign finance violations and other offenses and is serving a three-year prison sentence. He has long maintained that Trump directed him to orchestrate the payoffs to the two women. The payment to McDougal was funneled through Trump-friendly American Media.

Cohen in February also told Congress that a Trump Organization executive, Allen Weisselberg, and Trump's son Donald Jr. were involved in reimbursing him for one of the hush-money payments.

"The conclusion of the investigation exonerating The Trump Organization's role should be of great concern to the American people and investigated by Congress and The Department of Justice," Cohen said in a statement Thursday.

The House Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Hicks on Thursday asking her to clarify her June testimony to the panel. Hicks told the panel she wasn't "present" for any conversations between Trump and Cohen about Daniels. Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler asked Hicks to clarify her testimony no later than August 15.

Rep. Adam Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said the unsealed documents "demonstrate that Donald Trump was intimately involved in devising and executing a corrupt scheme" to cover up an affair.

The court papers were ordered released by U.S. District Judge William Pauley III at the request of several media organizations. The judge called the documents "a matter of national importance."

Information for this article was contributed by Bernard Condon, Eric Tucker and Michael Balsamo of The Associated Press.

A Section on 07/19/2019

Print Headline: Files detail '16 hush-money efforts

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