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In the Middle of His Official Business, Trump Took the Time to Send Checks to Michael Cohen

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On the same day he reportedly pressured the F.B.I. director to drop an investigation into a former aide, the president’s trust issued a check to Mr. Cohen in furtherance of what federal prosecutors have called a criminal scheme to violate campaign finance laws at the direction of Mr. Trump.The White House on Tuesday referred questions about the payments to Mr. Trump’s private lawyers. Jay Sekulow, one of the president’s personal lawyers, had no comment and a lawyer for the Trump Organization declined to discuss the matter.Other defenders of the president said that the checks proved only that Mr. Trump paid his personal lawyer, not that he necessarily knew the money was meant to reimburse Mr. Cohen for hush payments to Stormy Daniels, the pornographic film actress who has claimed to have had an extramarital affair with Mr. Trump. Giuliani, hoping to refute the suggestion that it might be a campaign finance violation, told Fox News and The Times that the president had in fact reimbursed Mr. Cohen for the payment.Citing Mr. Cohen and other evidence, prosecutors from the Southern District of New York said in court papers that Mr. Trump directed the scheme, essentially making him an unindicted co-conspirator.“We’re talking about a felony committed by the president of the United States where there’s no dispute,” said Mr. Davis, the lawyer for Mr. Cohen.People close to Mr. Trump have suggested that he may not have been aware of what Mr. Cohen was doing in real time, despite an audiotape that Mr. Cohen recorded of him discussing with Mr. Trump payments that The National Enquirer had made to a second woman who claimed to have had an affair with the candidate.A person close to Mr. Trump said that he may have believed the checks were payment for general legal fees, but may not have known why. Comey, then the F.B.I. director, and suggested “letting Flynn go,” according to a contemporaneous memo by Mr. Comey.The next check, for $35,000, came from the trust on March 17, even as the president hosted Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany in the Oval Office and aides were grappling with a firestorm over unfounded assertions aired by the White House that the British had spied on Mr. Trump when he was a candidate.A check for April has not been located; Mr. Cohen’s records were seized by federal agents.

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