Trump Indictment Comes 5 Years After Common Cause Filed Complaint with DOJ for Hush Money Payments

In 2018, watchdog group urged the FEC and DOJ to investigate Stormy Daniels payout 

Washington, DC — Five years after Common Cause filed complaints against Donald J. Trump, his business, and his campaign for violating federal campaign finance law with hush money payments to Stormy Daniels, the former president has been indicted by a Manhattan grand jury. The charges remain under seal but stem from the investigation of those payments by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.

“No American is above the law, including former presidents, and Donald Trump will get his day in court,” said Aaron Scherb, Senior Director of Legislative Affairs at Common Cause. “Donald Trump and his co-conspirators clearly appeared to have broken the law and his attorney at the time has already served time in federal prison for charges related to the $130,000 hush money payout. The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office is right to hold the former president to the same standard as every other American.” 

On January 22, 2018, Common Cause urged the FEC and the DOJ to investigate the $130,000 payout to Stormy Daniels meant to influence the election, an unreported in-kind contribution to the 2016 Trump campaign. 

Common Cause’s complaints highlighted the level of secrecy that went into the payment to Stormy Daniels just weeks ahead of the 2016 presidential election. According to the Wall Street Journal, Mr. Trump’s then-attorney, Michael Cohen, created Essential Consultants LLC to dole out the money in exchange for Daniels’ silence. The LLC was created so the money wouldn’t be linked to Trump or his campaign.  

Since the original filings, Cohen admitted to making the payment to Stormy Daniels in exchange for her signing a nondisclosure agreement regarding her affair with Trump. The complaint alleges the payments were made on Trump’s behalf and in coordination with Trump, which Trump confirmed in May 2018 via Twitter. That means the $130,000 payment was both an unreported expenditure to pay for Daniels’ silence and an in-kind contribution (a non-monetary contribution) from Cohen to the Trump campaign.  

In the filings, Common Cause alleges the Trump Organization violated federal law by facilitating a contribution to the Trump campaign. Cohen was employed by the Trump Organization at the time he made the payment to Daniels and apparently used his Trump Organization email to arrange the payment, suggesting he made the payment to Daniels in his capacity as an employee of the Trump Organization and Donald J. Trump. 

To learn more about Common Cause’s 2018 filings, click here 

To read the Department of Justice complaint, click here.  

To read the Federal Election Commission complaint, click here