Federal investigators in New York have “gathered more evidence than previously known” from individuals in the President’s “inner circle,” related to the hush-money payments made to two women who claim they had affairs with President Donald Trump, Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.
According to the paper, prosecutors in the Manhattan US Attorney’s office interviewed Hope Hicks, the former White House communications director and longtime confidante of Trump, last spring and Keith Schiller, the President’s longtime bodyguard.
The paper also said investigators “learned of calls” between Schiller and David Pecker, the head of American Media Inc., the company that publishes the National Enquirer. Pecker worked with Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer, to suppress potentially damaging claims made against candidate Trump by women, with AMI using a tabloid tactic called “catch and kill.”
Additionally, the Journal reported that investigators “possess a recorded phone conversation” between Cohen and a lawyer who represented the two women. Trump has denied having affairs with Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels, and Karen McDougal.
The paper said the investigators obtained information about Trump’s involvement in the payments “weeks before” Cohen implicated the President in the scheme during a court appearance last year.
According to the Journal, during a previously reported raid of Cohen’s home, office and hotel room last summer, investigators seized “a recording of a September 2017 phone call” between Cohen and Keith Davidson, Daniels’ attorney at the time. The call, the paper said, “was sparked by an inquiry to Mr. Davidson from a City National Bank client manager, asking about funds the lawyer had transferred” to Daniels. Davidson, according to the paper, was “worried that the bank’s singling out of the payment might mean the transaction was under federal investigation,” while Cohen, who had been recording the call, “didn’t indicate he was alarmed,” the paper said.
The Journal also said following the raid, investigators asked Hicks “about her contacts” with Pecker. They also asked “at least one other witness” about whether or not Hicks had “coordinated” with anyone at AMI as she was crafting a response to an inquiry from the Journal for a November 2016 story. The paper was working on a report about an AMI payment to McDougal for the rights to her story of an alleged affair with Trump.
As for Schiller, the Journal said investigators “were aware” Schiller “had spoken by phone” to Pecker and were looking to find out if the bodyguard had ever given the phone to Trump. The Journal said it “couldn’t determine what investigators learned.”