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Source: Trump attended 2015 hush money meeting

Donald Trump attended an August 2015 meeting that federal prosecutors believe was central to a criminal scheme to violate campaign finance laws to help Trump win the presidency, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Posted: Dec 14, 2018 7:58 PM
Updated: Dec 14, 2018 8:18 PM

Michael Cohen. Paul Manafort. David Pecker. Michael Flynn. President Donald Trump's enablers are falling one by one, and his dream world is becoming a hellscape. Trump, a famous self-promoter who has bragged about his wealth, intelligence, physical prowess and winning ways, faces the prospect of humiliation on a scale that would be genuinely world class. And his story is becoming a modern parable about the dangers of hubris and limits of fakery.

The President's former personal attorney Michael Cohen is the latest Trump associate to be sentenced to prison, after he pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations, among other charges. According to prosecutors, Cohen admitted he "acted in coordination with and at the direction of" Trump when he made or helped arrange hush money payments to a Playboy model and an adult film actress in order to silence claims they each had affairs with Trump before he was President.

Trump, who has denied the affairs, appeared in a Fox News interview on Thursday to dismiss accusations of campaign finance violations, calling it a "civil matter" instead. He also went on to say, "I never directed [Cohen] to do anything wrong. Whatever he did, he did on his own."

At his sentencing the day before, Cohen offered an apology and told the court he had ignored his own "inner voice" and "moral compass" in order to serve his boss. It's hard to believe anyone with a working moral compass would have ever found himself in Cohen's position in the first place. Yes, it's possible a straight-shooter could have accepted an executive position in the Trump Organization, but anyone with an interest in honesty and fair-dealing would not have stuck around for as long as Cohen did. The lies Trump has told as President were foreshadowed by the manipulation he practiced as a private citizen.

David Pecker, CEO of American Media Inc., which publishes the National Enquirer, was one of the most important guardians of Trump's media image. In the run-up to the 2016 presidential elections, AMI used the pages of its publications to gild the Trump image and attack his rivals, publishing one wild falsehood after another in an attempt to persuade readers that Hillary Clinton was either headed to jail or on the brink of death.

On Wednesday, federal prosecutors announced it had reached a nonprosecution deal with AMI. As part of the deal, AMI admitted it worked with Trump's campaign to pay Karen McDougal $150,000 in order to "catch and kill" claims she had a sexual affair with Trump.

Pecker is also said to have reached an immunity deal. Given that he agreed to suppress damaging claims about Trump in August 2015, it's possible there are other stories that have yet to see the light of day.

What would have motivated Pecker to buy the exclusive rights to stories about Trump, only to bury them? Perhaps he thought Trump would offer exclusive interviews in return, which might allow him to rake in more money through tabloid sales. But Pecker was already wealthy without Trump. He may have also appreciated Trump's power and influence, or simply enjoyed the time he spent in Trump's world.

Parties at Mar-a-Lago and Trump's other properties could be glittering affairs. The guest list for Trump's wedding to Melania Knauss, after all, included Bill and Hillary Clinton as well as Tony Bennett. The Trump image may have been built on false premises, but the tinsel was certainly real.

Others who became Trump allies may not have had better opportunities to gain the relevance they craved. The criminally convicted Paul Manafort, who flipped on the President only to be accused of lying to investigators, was a man without a candidate before he joined the Trump campaign in 2016 and steered it to the nomination. Having previously worked for Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, Manafort must have seen that Trump was not fit for the role.

Although Manafort backtracked in his cooperation with prosecutors, he may have already given them a look behind the Trump façade. Certainly Michael Flynn, Trump's former national security adviser, is providing essential details on the truth about Trump.

The threats to the Trump image, and whatever substance lies behind his claim to extraordinary competence and vast wealth, go well beyond the information that may be provided by known cooperators. Trump's longtime adviser Roger Stone has said he expects to be indicted, and several of his associates have been contacted for interviews or called to testify before a grand jury.

Letitia James, New York's incoming attorney general, is also promising to investigate Trump's businesses and his charitable activities. If she discovers wrongdoing under state law, Trump's presidential pardon power will be useless because it applies only to federal offenses. To top it off, the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives will be able to conduct hearings and produce testimony that is likely to contradict many of Trump's claims about himself.

Altogether, the investigations, hearings and prosecutions are dissolving the shiny veneer that Trump created to make himself look bigger, better, richer and more talented. The price paid by those who willingly aided in the mythmaking is high, as these disgraced figures and their loved one would attest. But no one who entered Trump's orbit and stayed there for a significant amount of time should have failed to see that Trump's main product was illusion.

As the Trump edifice crumbles, the President is not the only one in danger. Everyone who joined his businesses and his campaign, including his own children and top political operatives, likely faced moments when they needed to consult a moral compass. One wonders how many followed Cohen into the hellscape.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 612001

Reported Deaths: 7756
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1269201801
Ramsey53281911
Dakota47414477
Anoka43426465
Washington27780296
Stearns22738227
St. Louis18329319
Scott17747139
Wright16603153
Olmsted13567103
Sherburne1217096
Carver1078349
Clay830492
Rice8283112
Blue Earth772444
Crow Wing691299
Kandiyohi672285
Chisago629355
Otter Tail591987
Benton587798
Goodhue487274
Douglas480381
Mower478634
Winona465452
Itasca463768
Isanti447267
McLeod435861
Morrison429262
Beltrami411563
Nobles410950
Steele401619
Polk391272
Becker389957
Lyon366154
Carlton357158
Freeborn353134
Pine338123
Nicollet335045
Mille Lacs315756
Brown309140
Le Sueur301028
Todd289233
Cass288933
Meeker267344
Waseca241723
Martin237433
Roseau212721
Wabasha20873
Hubbard198741
Dodge19133
Renville184246
Redwood178741
Houston176016
Cottonwood168224
Wadena165223
Fillmore160110
Faribault157420
Chippewa154238
Pennington154120
Kanabec148028
Sibley147410
Aitkin140037
Watonwan13629
Rock129719
Jackson123112
Pipestone117226
Yellow Medicine115620
Pope11416
Swift107718
Murray107610
Koochiching96819
Stevens92611
Clearwater89517
Marshall89017
Lake85020
Wilkin84213
Lac qui Parle76222
Big Stone6114
Grant5958
Lincoln5863
Mahnomen5669
Norman5509
Kittson49222
Unassigned48393
Red Lake4037
Traverse3835
Lake of the Woods3504
Cook1740

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 376815

Reported Deaths: 6122
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk59215646
Linn21567342
Scott20530250
Black Hawk16850320
Woodbury15378230
Johnson1479586
Dubuque13627215
Dallas1150699
Pottawattamie11393177
Story1092548
Warren594392
Clinton565894
Cerro Gordo564898
Webster546397
Sioux520574
Muscatine4956106
Marshall493679
Des Moines481776
Jasper454273
Wapello4402124
Buena Vista432340
Plymouth405782
Lee396958
Marion372378
Henry301737
Jones301357
Bremer294663
Carroll287252
Boone273735
Crawford273541
Benton264255
Washington261051
Dickinson251145
Mahaska235151
Jackson225943
Kossuth222166
Clay217927
Tama213872
Delaware213343
Winneshiek201337
Buchanan197834
Page195722
Cedar194323
Hardin192544
Wright191240
Hamilton189251
Fayette188943
Harrison182873
Clayton173258
Butler169135
Madison168019
Floyd165242
Mills164724
Cherokee162238
Lyon161241
Poweshiek159836
Allamakee156452
Hancock154034
Iowa149124
Winnebago147031
Calhoun144813
Cass142155
Grundy139733
Emmet137341
Jefferson135535
Sac133320
Shelby132238
Louisa130749
Union129535
Franklin129223
Appanoose128749
Mitchell127343
Chickasaw126017
Humboldt126026
Guthrie125332
Palo Alto115224
Montgomery106938
Howard105522
Clarke102624
Monroe101533
Keokuk100432
Ida93735
Adair90132
Davis88525
Pocahontas87022
Monona86731
Greene80011
Osceola79517
Lucas78323
Worth7648
Taylor67112
Decatur6649
Fremont64910
Van Buren57318
Ringgold57124
Wayne56623
Audubon53613
Adams3504
Unassigned80
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