Two senior Trump Organization officials may face criminal charges in connection with Michael Cohen's $130,000 hush money payment to Stormy Daniels, according to the New York Times, citing two officials.
The probe by the Manhattan DA's office "is in its earliest stages and prosecutors have not yet made a decision on whether to proceed."
Prosecutors in the district attorney’s office have reviewed the court papers containing the campaign finance charges and other federal crimes to which Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty on Tuesday in United States District Court in Manhattan, the officials said. The papers provide some details about how two Trump Organization executives handled the reimbursement and recorded them as legal fees.-NYT
The state investigation would revolve around how the Trump Organization accounted for the payment to Daniels (real name Stephanie Clifford), who claims to have had an affair with President Trump over a decade ago.
While the Trump Organization recorded the $130,000 payment as a legal expense, Cohen said on Tuesday that he paid Clifford to buy her silence during the 2016 US election, while Federal prosecutors have said the Cohen reimbursement were for sham legal invoices related to a nonexistent retainer agreement - and did no actual legal work on the matter.
“On its face, it certainly would be problematic,” said one of the officials familiar with the district attorney’s office review, noting that listing the reimbursement as a legal expense could be a felony under state law. -NYT
The Times points out, meanwhile, that Trump would be powerless to pardon people or corporate entities convicted of state crimes - only Federal violations.
Cohen - who probably thought his nightmare was over when he betrayed Trump and cut his deal on Tuesday, is now in the crosshairs of New York attorney general Barbara Underwood - who has sought a referral from the state Department of Taxation and Finance in order to prosecute any potential violations of state tax law it might uncover. "Such requests are seldom denied. The state's double jeopardy laws do not apply to tax crimes," notes the Times.
Manhattan investigators are reportedly focused on whether Trump Organization business records have been falsified, which could be charged as a misdemeanor or even a low-level felony if done to conceal another crime.
One of the officials stressed that a state investigation into possible violations of state law could be complicated or delayed by three other open inquiries relating to Mr. Trump: The federal investigation into Mr. Cohen; the inquiry by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election; and a lawsuit that the state attorney general has brought against the Trump Foundation, a charity.
Court papers in the federal case against Mr. Cohen said he ultimately received $420,000 from the Trump Organization to reimburse him for his $130,000 payment to Ms. Clifford. That is because the Trump Organization included money to cover his taxes on the $130,000, a bonus for him and reimbursement for other campaign expenses. -NYT
Cohen apparently issued "phony" monthly invoices for $35,000 "pursuant to retainer agreement."