Democratic outside group American Bridge filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission Monday, requesting it investigate a payment made to the porn star Stormy Daniels by President Trump’s lawyer just before the 2016 election,
The super PAC, meant to boost Democrats in congressional and gubernatorial elections, argues that the FEC must look into the payment made by Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen. There is enough evidence, the group says, that warrants an investigation to determine whether Cohen brokered the nondisclosure agreement with Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, to help Trump’s campaign.
It’s the second supplemental complaint by American Bridge, including details to the timeline surrounding the payment to Daniels, in October 2016.
American Bridge states “there is a strong possibility,” that Cohen, Trump, and the president’s campaign committee “violated federal law by conspiring to violate federal campaign finance law and directly violating the contribution limit restrictions and the reporting requirements.”
American Bridge isn't the only group to file a complaint. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed one to the Justice Department and Office of Government Ethics, arguing the payment by Cohen "constituted a loan to President Trump" that should have been reported.
"The odds Trump and his lawyer conspired to break the law in the 2016 campaign increase with each new stomach turning revelation,” David Brock, chairman of American Bridge, said in a statement to the Washington Examiner. “This scandal poses serious problems for Trump and the White House which is why American Bridge is doubling down on our legal efforts. The FEC must investigate."
Though American Bridge is politically motivated, legal experts said their complaint is credible and that there appears to be enough compelling evidence to at least warrant an investigation.
Richard Briffault, professor of election law at Columbia University, said the Democratic group’s complaint is “legitimate.”
If it can be shown that Cohen intended to aid Trump’s election by “removing a possible election issue” then it would be a violation of federal law, said Briffault. But if Cohen is able to prove he was shielding Trump's reputation out of “friendship," then there wouldn’t be violation.
“There’s certainly a credible argument that this payment was intended to be helpful to the election,” Briffault said.
And if it was treated as a contribution, Briffault said, “then it would be an illegal contribution” in excess of the limit.
There’s enough for FEC to investigate, Briffault said, and then present to the Justice Department. But, as in the case of John Edwards, a Democratic presidential candidate in 2008, bringing a case forward would be difficult unless enough evidence like emails and texts are found revealing Cohen’s intent.
As for whether Trump could be dragged into such proceedings is murky territory, Briffault added. “There’s difficulty in bringing the president into a civil case,” he said.