The Real Investigation

If there had been anything criminal to that storyline, the politicized anti-Trump factions in the intelligence and law-enforcement agencies would have leaked it.

.. the administration has taken enough aggressive steps against Russia that it is past time for the Kremlin to broadcast the big kompromat file if it exists.

.. But as long as a president’s actions — e.g., firing the FBI director, discussing the possibility of pardons — are on their face legal and within his legitimate constitutional authority, I do not believe they can validly predicate an obstruction prosecution.

.. I believe that the government is investigating whether there was, in connection with Trump’s White House bid, a conspiracy to commit fraud and extortion for the purpose of silencing potentially compromising sources — specifically, people in a position to portray Donald Trump as a womanizer.

.. Clearly, the prosecutors regard Trump and Cohen as potential co-conspirators. That does not mean a conspiracy will be proven, but the possibility is certainly being scrutinized.

.. Various reports also indicate that a former Trump-building doorman named Dino Sajudin was paid $30,000 to stay silent about an unverified claim that, nearly 30 years ago, Trump fathered a child out of wedlock with a young Trump Organization employee.

.. But there are twists to the known NDAs — not least, the remarkable coincidence that the same Los Angeles–based lawyer, Keith Davidson, turns up representing each of the muzzled women.

.. Clifford worked through her manager, a former porn actress, Gina Rodriguez, whom she met through the latter’s husband

.. Cohen also allegedly called Rodriguez, whose husband, Deuschle, answered the phone. He recalls that Cohen warned him, “You tell Gina if she ever wants to work in this business again then she needs to call me immediately.”

.. Clifford explains that the fake names, coupled with the fact that Trump himself did not sign the document, were intended to enable Trump falsely to deny knowledge of the arrangement.
.. When the Journal learned of the agreement in January 2017 and began sniffing around, Clifford signed a statement denying that the sexual encounter had occurred. She now says Cohen used “intimidation and coercive tactics” to induce her signature.

.. McDougal decided to tell her story in May 2016 — when Trump was plowing through the GOP primaries.
.. Through a mutual friend, she found Davidson, who told her that a deal with AMI could result in a “seven-figure publishing contract” with an initial $500,000 payment in an escrow account. But after an AMI official interviewed her extensively, the company initially declined to buy the story and Davidson confessed that there was no escrow money. AMI explains that it chose not to publish the story because it could not be verified, but concedes discussing McDougal’s allegations with Cohen “as part of its reporting process.”
.. Weeks later, though, when McDougal was in negotiations with ABC News, Davidson informed her that AMI had a new proposal: AMI would buy her story but not publish it owing to Pecker’s relationship with Trump. The company would pay $150,000 (a sizable chunk of which went to Davidson).
.. The deal was especially attractive to the model-turned-fitness-instructor because she was additionally promised that AMI would run her fitness columns and feature her on at least two publication covers.
.. Interestingly, just yesterday, the Wall Street Journal broke news about another NDA cobbled together by Cohen and Davidson. Turns out that in late 2017, Cohen negotiated a $1.6 million hush-money pay-off by his client, Elliott Broidy, a top Republican fundraiser with close ties to Trump.
.. The silenced beneficiary of the NDA is a different, currently unidentified former Playboy model, who became pregnant during an extramarital affair with Broidy. The model, who apparently terminated the pregnancy, was represented by Davidson. And here’s a coincidence for you: The NDA is rife with pseudonyms. Broidy and the model are referred to, respectively, as “David Dennison” and “Peggy Peterson,” the same names used in the Trump–Clifford NDA.
.. If that’s not enough camouflage, the lawyers have phony names, too — Cohen is listed as “Dennis Donohue,” and Davidson as “Paul Patterson.” Cute, no?
.. the only thing protected in a lawyer’s office are attorney–client communications and work product.
If Cohen had incriminating items unrelated to attorney work in his office, being a lawyer does not shield him from liability.
Furthermore, if there is no attorney–client relationship on a particular matter, there is no privilege
.. Trump and Cohen both say that Cohen did not tell Trump about the Clifford arrangement. Sounds implausible, but on
its face it means there was no attorney–client relationship regarding that transaction.
.. More important, if a lawyer is involved with a client in a criminal conspiracy, the crime-fraud exception to the attorney–client privilege strips their communications of privileged status. It seems evident that prosecutors are investigating on the theory that Clifford, McDougal, and perhaps others were defrauded or extorted into silence. The fact that they accepted money does not foreclose the possibility that their agreement to remain silent was procured, in part, by trickery or threats.