National News

Pornographic Film Star Linked to President Trump to Meet With Prosecutors

Posted June 24, 2018 8:58 p.m. EDT

Stephanie Clifford, the pornographic film star better known as Stormy Daniels, is scheduled to meet on Monday for the first time with prosecutors investigating Michael D. Cohen, President Donald Trump’s longtime personal fixer, according to a person familiar with the case.

For several months, prosecutors from the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan have been looking into whether Cohen broke the law in any of his various business dealings — among them, a $130,000 payment he made to Clifford in the runup to the 2016 election that was meant to keep her quiet about an extramarital affair she claims she had with Trump.

Clifford has been cooperating with the prosecutors, including providing them with documents about the payment, in response to a subpoena, the person familiar with the case said. But the interview on Monday will give prosecutors their first opportunity to ask Clifford detailed questions about the arrangement, which Trump initially denied but then acknowledged in a startling turnabout last month.

It was unclear exactly what Clifford planned to tell the prosecutors. But legal experts have said that if the payment to her was intended to influence the presidential race by suppressing an explosive news story that could have damaged Trump’s election chances, it could be covered by federal campaign finance laws.

This month, Clifford’s lawyer, Michael Avenatti, filed a lawsuit against her former lawyer, Keith Davidson, accusing him of colluding with Cohen to quash the story about her alleged affair with the president, calling Davidson “a puppet” for Cohen and Trump.

Clifford may be able to tell the prosecutors whether the Trump campaign was ever specifically mentioned as Davidson and Cohen hashed out the details of the hush-money payment.

Lawyers for Cohen and James Margolin, a spokesman for the federal prosecutors’ office, also declined to comment on the meeting.

The Cohen investigation had been occurring in secret, as prosecutors went so far as to covertly read his emails. But it burst into the public eye in April when federal agents armed with search warrants conducted a series of early-morning raids on Cohen’s office, apartment and hotel room. They hauled away a trove of potential evidence contained in eight boxes of documents, 30 or so cellphones, iPads and computers, and even the contents of one of his shredders.

Ever since the raids, the inquiry has been bogged down by a laborious review of the nearly 4 million documents and data files that were seized from Cohen. His lawyers and lawyers for Trump have been working round-the-clock with a court-appointed master to determine which of the files are protected by the lawyer-client privilege.

That review was supposed to have ended on Monday, but on Saturday lawyers for the Trump Organization, Trump’s private business, asked the judge in the case, Kimba M. Wood, to give them until July 11 to complete their scrutiny of the files, saying they had only just received some new materials, including “a number of audio files.”