Porn star Stormy Daniels’ alleged affair with President Donald Trump could yet become a sticking point for special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing probe of the Trump campaign and White House, experts say.
The special counsel is specifically tasked with investigating potential collusion between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign, as well as “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.” Yet several white-collar crime experts told CNBC that Daniels’ lawsuit, filed against Trump on March 6 over a deal barring her from discussing an alleged affair, raises questions and opportunities for the Mueller probe.
That’s because of the special circumstances surrounding a payment made to Daniels as part of the deal — and Trump’s relationship to the person who made that payment, his longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen. […]
Cohen said in February that he made a $130,000 payment to Daniels in October 2016, just weeks before the election that would catapult Trump to the White House. Cohen later said the money came from a home equity line of credit. Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, has said the money was in exchange for her signing a non-disclosure deal facilitated by Cohen through a company he set up shortly beforehand.
Daniels gave details of the alleged affair to In Touch magazine in a 2011 interview that wasn’t published until earlier this year. Although the relationship between Trump and Daniels allegedly occurred between 2006 and 2007 — shortly after Trump’s wife, Melania, gave birth to Trump’s youngest son, Barron — the hush-money deal wasn’t signed until a few weeks before the 2016 presidential election. […]
The timing of the payment has raised the question of whether Cohen and the Trump campaign violated campaign finance laws in an effort to prevent Daniels going public with her story just before voters started casting ballots.
The amount of money that Cohen gave Daniels was well in excess of the contribution maximum that an individual could make to a campaign. And the expenditure was not disclosed by the Trump campaign.
“I think that is something to care about,” New York City criminal defense lawyer Gerald Lefcourt said when CNBC asked why Mueller could be eyeing the Daniels deal.
“It’s a close associate of the president involved in the campaign,” Lefcourt said. “If the president knows about it, he’s involved in the [potential] campaign violation as well.”