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Federal investigators have subpoenaed the publisher of the National Enquirer as part of the Manhattan US attorney’s investigation into President Donald Trump’s former longtime lawyer, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.
When FBI agents raided Michael Cohen’s property earlier this year, they obtained among other things records related to two payments made to women who say they had affairs with Trump.
One of the women is Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model. The National Enquirer paid McDougal $150,000 in August 2016 for the rights to publish her story. The outlet never published the piece, and federal investigators are probing whether Cohen was involved in any efforts to quash damaging information about Trump ahead of the November 2016 presidential election.
Election law experts say that if Cohen engaged in such activity in order to protect Trump’s candidacy, it would likely violate campaign finance law.
American Media, Inc. is the publishing company that owns The National Enquirer. David Pecker, the head of the company, is a longtime friend of both Trump and Cohen.
Cohen is also under scrutiny for a $130,000 payment he made to the porn star Stormy Daniels in late October 2016. Though Cohen initially denied the payment had anything to do with politics, Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani later indicated on national television that the story would have damaged Trump’s chances at winning the election if it came out so soon before Election Day.
Cohen reportedly felt isolated and frozen out by the White House and its allies when news of the New York investigation first surfaced. In recent days, Cohen’s initial defense lawyers withdrew from representing him and he is now planning to hire a seasoned former Justice Department veteran who experts say clients would hire if they are considering flipping against a bigger target.
Cohen has been known at different times as Trump’s fixer, pit bull, and consigliere. He also served as the Trump Organization’s counsel for ten years before leaving to become Trump’s personal attorney.
If he chooses to cooperate with prosecutors, the resulting plea deal would be part of a global resolution. That means Cohen would be cooperating not only with the Manhattan US attorney’s office but with any other federal criminal inquiries — like the Russia investigation — that he may have information about.