A payment made by President Donald Trump late in the campaign to porn actress Stormy Daniels may have violated federal election law.
Trump sent his longtime attorney Michael Cohen to pay the actress $130,000 in hush money shortly before the Nov. 8, 2016, election, according to the Wall Street Journal -- which attorney J. Whitfield Larrabee said appears to be a violation of the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA).
The Republican presidential candidate was still trying to contain the damage from the "Access Hollywood" tape when Fox News and other outlets began looking into reports that Trump and Daniels had an affair.
BREAKING NEWS: I'm investigating whether Trump's $130K payment to Stormy Daniels violated the Federal Election Camp… https://t.co/39EoXnN8xG— J Whitfield Larrabee (@J Whitfield Larrabee) 1516291562.0
Larrabee said the payment to Daniels likely came from the Trump Organization, where Cohen served as lawyer and executive vice president, and would violate the FECA ban on corporate contributions to candidates and campaign committees.
"Because the payment came near the end of Trump campaign, and was made to aid the campaign by purchasing the silence of Daniels, it amounted to an in-kind contribution to the Trump campaign," Larrabee said.
The law considers all expenditures made by anyone in consultation or at the request of a candidate's campaign to be a prohibited in-kind contribution.
"By paying off Daniels for the Trump campaign, Trump, The Trump Organization and Cohen likely committed federal crimes," Larrabee said.
The attorney said Trump's payoff to the actress also appears to have violated FECA’s $2,700 contribution limit by nearly 50 times over -- and he said the value of Cohen's services probably violated the same limit.
On top of all that, Larrabee said, the possibly illegal payoff was almost certainly not reported by Trump in required public disclosures to the Federal Election Commission -- which would also be a federal crime.
Trump and Cohen could have broken laws against criminal conspiracy if they knowingly skirted federal election law, which Larrabee believes they did.
"Trump has been prosecuted for campaign finance violations in the past, and he knows the law quite well," Larrabee said. "Where contributions have an aggregate value of over $25,000, as is the case with Daniel’s payoff, each violation is a felony punishable by up to 5 years in the federal prison."
Larrabee, who has filed ethics complaints against Florida attorney general Pam Bondi and failed Senate candidate Roy Moore, said he intends to request a U.S. Justice Department investigation and to file a complaint with the Federal Election Commission by the end of the month.