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Trump has new reason to be nervous about his hush money scandal

Ahead of Election Day 2016, Donald Trump allegedly paid illegal hush money to a porn star. Prosecutors in New York reportedly aren’t done with the case.


Among his many legal troubles, Donald Trump has reason to worry about being indicted for election crimes in Georgia. And possible charges related to his alleged Jan. 6 wrongdoing. And a possible indictment stemming from his decision to take classified documents, refuse to give them back, and allegedly obstruct the retrieval process.

But let’s also not forget about one of the easily overlooked classics: Trump’s hush money scandal. The New York Times reported overnight:

The Manhattan district attorney’s office on Tuesday took a significant step forward in its investigation of Donald J. Trump, meeting with his former personal lawyer about hush money paid to a porn star who said she had an affair with Mr. Trump, according to people with knowledge of the matter. The questioning of the lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, offered the clearest sign yet that the district attorney’s office was ramping up its investigation into Mr. Trump’s role in the $130,000 hush money deal.

In case anyone needs a refresher — it has, after all, been several years since this controversy first came to the fore — let’s revisit our earlier coverage.

In a normal political environment, it would’ve been a career-ending scandal. Then-candidate Trump, in the run-up to Election Day 2016, allegedly paid illegal hush money to a porn actress named Stormy Daniels, in the hopes of keeping secret an alleged extramarital affair. The Republican’s fixer, Michael Cohen, took the lead in orchestrating the illegal payment.

Cohen was ultimately charged, prosecuted, convicted and sentenced to prison, even as his former client was rewarded with the presidency.

The closer one looks at the relevant details, the worse the controversy appears. Not only did Cohen directly implicate Trump in the scandal, telling a court he arranged the illegal hush money payments at the instruction of his client, but the former president, while in office, was also caught lying about what transpired.

It’s long been an open question as to why Trump wasn’t also charged in the case. It’s against this backdrop that there’s fresh evidence that a district attorney’s office in New York isn’t quite done with the matter. The Times’ report, which has not been independently verified by MSNBC or NBC News, added:

While the hush money was an impetus for the district attorney’s investigation, which began in 2018, prosecutors had shifted in recent years to a broader examination of Mr. Trump’s business practices. In recent months, however, the prosecutors returned to the payments, seeking to breathe new life into the investigation, The New York Times reported in November. There is no indication that prosecutors are close to making a decision about whether to seek charges against the former president, but the interview of Mr. Cohen could portend a flurry of investigative steps.

The same article added that prosecutors in Manhattan have also reached out to Keith Davidson, the lawyer who represented Daniels (whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford) and helped arrange the 2016 deal.

The former president didn’t need another legal headache. He appears to have one anyway.

Postscript: Readers wondering how this matter could still be investigated, given that the alleged crime happened several years ago, should check out this Twitter thread my colleague Lisa Rubin wrote in November.