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Source: Trump attended 2015 hush money meeting

Donald Trump attended an August 2015 meeting that federal prosecutors believe was central to a criminal scheme to violate campaign finance laws to help Trump win the presidency, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Posted: Dec 14, 2018 8:18 PM
Updated: Dec 14, 2018 8:18 PM

Michael Cohen. Paul Manafort. David Pecker. Michael Flynn. President Donald Trump's enablers are falling one by one, and his dream world is becoming a hellscape. Trump, a famous self-promoter who has bragged about his wealth, intelligence, physical prowess and winning ways, faces the prospect of humiliation on a scale that would be genuinely world class. And his story is becoming a modern parable about the dangers of hubris and limits of fakery.

The President's former personal attorney Michael Cohen is the latest Trump associate to be sentenced to prison, after he pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations, among other charges. According to prosecutors, Cohen admitted he "acted in coordination with and at the direction of" Trump when he made or helped arrange hush money payments to a Playboy model and an adult film actress in order to silence claims they each had affairs with Trump before he was President.

Trump, who has denied the affairs, appeared in a Fox News interview on Thursday to dismiss accusations of campaign finance violations, calling it a "civil matter" instead. He also went on to say, "I never directed [Cohen] to do anything wrong. Whatever he did, he did on his own."

At his sentencing the day before, Cohen offered an apology and told the court he had ignored his own "inner voice" and "moral compass" in order to serve his boss. It's hard to believe anyone with a working moral compass would have ever found himself in Cohen's position in the first place. Yes, it's possible a straight-shooter could have accepted an executive position in the Trump Organization, but anyone with an interest in honesty and fair-dealing would not have stuck around for as long as Cohen did. The lies Trump has told as President were foreshadowed by the manipulation he practiced as a private citizen.

David Pecker, CEO of American Media Inc., which publishes the National Enquirer, was one of the most important guardians of Trump's media image. In the run-up to the 2016 presidential elections, AMI used the pages of its publications to gild the Trump image and attack his rivals, publishing one wild falsehood after another in an attempt to persuade readers that Hillary Clinton was either headed to jail or on the brink of death.

On Wednesday, federal prosecutors announced it had reached a nonprosecution deal with AMI. As part of the deal, AMI admitted it worked with Trump's campaign to pay Karen McDougal $150,000 in order to "catch and kill" claims she had a sexual affair with Trump.

Pecker is also said to have reached an immunity deal. Given that he agreed to suppress damaging claims about Trump in August 2015, it's possible there are other stories that have yet to see the light of day.

What would have motivated Pecker to buy the exclusive rights to stories about Trump, only to bury them? Perhaps he thought Trump would offer exclusive interviews in return, which might allow him to rake in more money through tabloid sales. But Pecker was already wealthy without Trump. He may have also appreciated Trump's power and influence, or simply enjoyed the time he spent in Trump's world.

Parties at Mar-a-Lago and Trump's other properties could be glittering affairs. The guest list for Trump's wedding to Melania Knauss, after all, included Bill and Hillary Clinton as well as Tony Bennett. The Trump image may have been built on false premises, but the tinsel was certainly real.

Others who became Trump allies may not have had better opportunities to gain the relevance they craved. The criminally convicted Paul Manafort, who flipped on the President only to be accused of lying to investigators, was a man without a candidate before he joined the Trump campaign in 2016 and steered it to the nomination. Having previously worked for Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, Manafort must have seen that Trump was not fit for the role.

Although Manafort backtracked in his cooperation with prosecutors, he may have already given them a look behind the Trump façade. Certainly Michael Flynn, Trump's former national security adviser, is providing essential details on the truth about Trump.

The threats to the Trump image, and whatever substance lies behind his claim to extraordinary competence and vast wealth, go well beyond the information that may be provided by known cooperators. Trump's longtime adviser Roger Stone has said he expects to be indicted, and several of his associates have been contacted for interviews or called to testify before a grand jury.

Letitia James, New York's incoming attorney general, is also promising to investigate Trump's businesses and his charitable activities. If she discovers wrongdoing under state law, Trump's presidential pardon power will be useless because it applies only to federal offenses. To top it off, the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives will be able to conduct hearings and produce testimony that is likely to contradict many of Trump's claims about himself.

Altogether, the investigations, hearings and prosecutions are dissolving the shiny veneer that Trump created to make himself look bigger, better, richer and more talented. The price paid by those who willingly aided in the mythmaking is high, as these disgraced figures and their loved one would attest. But no one who entered Trump's orbit and stayed there for a significant amount of time should have failed to see that Trump's main product was illusion.

As the Trump edifice crumbles, the President is not the only one in danger. Everyone who joined his businesses and his campaign, including his own children and top political operatives, likely faced moments when they needed to consult a moral compass. One wonders how many followed Cohen into the hellscape.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 97049

Reported Deaths: 2919
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds7148160
DeSoto562361
Harrison388374
Jackson352170
Madison331289
Rankin330879
Lee274870
Forrest250075
Jones249879
Washington225977
Lafayette219340
Lauderdale2064125
Bolivar184766
Oktibbeha180152
Lamar172435
Neshoba1580104
Lowndes157958
Panola150731
Sunflower147346
Leflore141381
Warren140950
Pontotoc127916
Pike124051
Monroe123669
Copiah119233
Scott117627
Coahoma116229
Marshall111117
Lincoln110453
Holmes109859
Grenada109536
Yazoo106230
Simpson104746
Tate100638
Union99824
Leake96138
Adams94237
Wayne90521
Pearl River89453
Marion86835
Prentiss86317
Itawamba83121
Covington82723
Alcorn82311
George78213
Tallahatchie77421
Newton77324
Winston74219
Tishomingo69138
Chickasaw68524
Tippah67217
Attala67025
Clarke60346
Walthall60226
Clay59618
Hancock58822
Jasper57715
Noxubee55116
Smith53615
Calhoun52212
Tunica49715
Claiborne46516
Montgomery46520
Yalobusha43614
Lawrence43313
Perry42419
Greene38717
Humphreys37815
Quitman3775
Stone37512
Jefferson Davis34211
Webster33813
Amite33210
Carroll32012
Wilkinson30518
Kemper29015
Sharkey26613
Jefferson2439
Benton2283
Franklin1933
Choctaw1866
Issaquena1053
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 136055

Reported Deaths: 2364
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson19752350
Mobile13449292
Montgomery8852184
Tuscaloosa8654118
Madison792778
Shelby601349
Lee592760
Baldwin552650
Marshall396143
Calhoun353444
Etowah352145
Morgan331428
Houston292021
Elmore267348
DeKalb243221
St. Clair233036
Walker231984
Talladega217129
Limestone211920
Cullman190720
Dallas179126
Franklin178129
Autauga177325
Russell17633
Lauderdale172333
Colbert166626
Blount161715
Escambia161124
Chilton158830
Jackson158111
Covington140327
Dale139244
Coffee13596
Pike120510
Chambers116842
Tallapoosa116485
Clarke110016
Marion96829
Butler91339
Barbour8857
Winston74512
Marengo72420
Pickens66614
Bibb65610
Lowndes65427
Randolph65413
Hale64428
Geneva6344
Lawrence62123
Cherokee61213
Bullock60614
Monroe5908
Clay5878
Washington55913
Perry5416
Crenshaw54032
Conecuh53611
Wilcox53211
Henry5075
Macon48318
Fayette4628
Sumter43819
Cleburne3825
Lamar3702
Choctaw35112
Greene30315
Coosa1723
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