Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) delivered an incisive reading Tuesday night on MSNBC of a newly released recording of President Donald Trump discussing a hush money payment ahead of the 2016 election that could potentially implicate the president in campaign finance crimes.
On the recording, Trump discusses with his lawyer Michael Cohen a plan to create a shell company to buy the rights of former Playboy model Karen McDougal to a story about an affair with Trump that she sold to a publisher.
"It's brought up in the context of things they need to make go away until the election," Schiff explains of the possible payment. "So they talk about the divorce proceedings and the president says, 'You only need to make that go away for four weeks.' And Cohen says, 'Don't worry, it will go away for longer than that.' So it's an effort to basically prevent voters from getting this information."
He continued: "Finally, I would say on the issue of an expenditure for the campaign: The whole purpose of setting up this company to make this payment is to conceal the payment. ... If they were planning on reporting it as a campaign expenditure there would be no need to set up that company. So to me as a former prosecutor, I'd say you have evidence of knowledge, you have of an intent to violate the campaign laws, you have evidence that this was about concealing information for a campaign purpose. So that's how I think that the prosecutors would look at this."
As others have pointed out, however, it does not appear Trump ever made the payments discussed in this tape. Without such payments, it's unlikely any campaign finance charges could be pursued.
But the recording may have relevance in another matter that really could implicate the president in a crime: the payment of Stephanie Clifford, better known as Stormy Daniels. Clifford really was paid off by Cohen to keep quiet about her story, and that payment was never reported as a campaign expenditure.
Trump's defenders have argued, however, that such a payment wasn't a campaign expense.
And yet as the recording reveals, and Schiff explains, it really does appear that Trump and Cohen were making an effort pay for women's silences about Trump's infidelities to further his electoral chances. So it's hard to escape the conclusion that the Stormy Daniels payment was intentionally arranged to influence the campaign, and then concealed so that no one would know about it. And that really does suggest that Trump may have committed a crime.
Watch the clip of Schiff below:
"The whole purpose of setting up this company to make this payment is to conceal the payment." https://t.co/hBiCpn1xZN— AlterNet (@AlterNet)1532487506.0