White House says Donald Trump ‘did nothing wrong’ over payments

US president Donald Trump. Picture: Reuters/Yuri Gripas
US president Donald Trump. Picture: Reuters/Yuri Gripas
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The White House says Donald Trump did nothing wrong the day after his former attorney Michael Cohen said the US president had directed him to make hush money payments to two women with the express purpose of “influencing the election”.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president had “done nothing wrong” and stressed: “There are no charges against him.”

Ms Sanders also called it “a ridiculous accusation” to suggest the president had lied when he said he didn’t know about the payments at the time they were made.

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Mr Cohen yesterday pleaded guilty to a number of charges, including campaign finance violations.

His plea included admitting to campaign finance fraud stemming from money given to adult actress Stormy Daniels and ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal.

Asked whether the president is concerned about what Cohen might tell the special counsel investigating Russia election meddling, Ms Sanders said: “I don’t think the president is concerned at all.”

Mr Trump defended the hush money payments made by Cohen to a pair of women, insisting, contrary to Cohen’s guilty plea, the effort wasn’t “even a campaign violation”.

Trump is telling “Fox & Friends” host Ainsley Earhardt in an interview set to air tomorrow the payments “didn’t come out of the campaign and that’s big”.

He will say that if the money had come from the campaign, “that could be a little dicey”, but since it “came from me” it’s “not even a campaign violation.”

However, corporations are not permitted to contribute to campaigns and money intended to influence an election must be reported.

Paul Manafort, the long-time political operative who for months led Mr Trump’s successful presidential campaign, was found guilty of eight financial crimes in the first trial victory of the special counsel investigation into the president’s associates.

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A judge declared a mistrial yesterday on ten other counts the jury could not agree on.

The verdict was part of a stunning one-two punch of bad news for the White House, coming as Cohen was pleading guilty in New York to campaign finance charges arising from hush money payments made to two women who say they had sexual relationships with Trump.