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US prosecutors name Trump in hush payments, detail Russian contacts

The documents turned up the heat on Trump by confirming prosecutors’ belief of his involvement in a campaign finance violation.

US President Donald Trump. Picture: AFP

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK - US prosecutors said on Friday President Donald Trump directed his personal lawyer to make illegal hush payments to two women ahead of the 2016 election, and also detailed a previously unknown attempt by a Russian to help the Trump campaign.

In court filings, federal prosecutors in New York and those working for Special Counsel Robert Mueller made the case for why Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, and his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, deserved prison time.

The documents turned up the heat on Trump by confirming prosecutors’ belief of his involvement in a campaign finance violation, while adding to a growing list of contacts between campaign aides and Russians in 2015 and 2016, legal experts said.

“In total, the prosecutors seem to be saying the president was more aware than he has claimed to be,” former federal prosecutor Michael Zeldin said.

Prosecutors in both of the Cohen cases were required to submit separate memos on Friday on his cooperation to US District Judge William Pauley in Manhattan, who will decide on the former lawyer’s sentence on 12 December.

While Cohen implicated the president in the hush payments to two women — adult film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal — in his guilty plea in August in New York, the filing on Friday marked the first time federal prosecutors officially concurred.

It said Cohen made the payments in “coordination with and the direction of” Trump.

Democrats jumped on that assertion and called for steps to protect Mueller’s probe into possible collusion between Russia and Trump’s presidential campaign.

“These legal documents outline serious and criminal wrongdoing, including felony violations of campaign finance laws at the direction of President Trump,” Senator Diane Feinstein said in a statement.

The president has denied any collusion with Russia, and accuses Mueller’s prosecutors of pressuring his former aides to lie about him, his campaign and his business dealings. Russia has denied interfering in the election to help Trump.

In new tweets on Friday, Trump accused federal investigators and senior officials of having conflicts of interest, without offering evidence. White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders called Cohen a liar and dismissed the filings as insignificant.

“The government’s filings in Mr. Cohen’s case tell us nothing of value that wasn’t already known,” Sanders said.

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