Trump admits he knew about hush-money payments that came from him

DAILY SABAH WITH AGENCIES
ISTANBUL
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U.S. President Donald Trump told Fox News on Wednesday that he knew about hush-money payments to a porn star and model, but claimed he found out after they were made.

When asked about the payments made to porn star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal by his former lawyer Michael Cohen, Trump said, "Later on, I knew."

He claimed money came from him, not from his campaign finances. He said that makes the payments "not even a campaign violation."

Cohen pleaded guilty Tuesday to campaign-finance violations and seven other criminal charges. Cohen's attorney said Wednesday he would not accept a presidential pardon.

In dramatic testimony on Tuesday, Cohen told a federal court in Manhattan that Trump had directed him to arrange payments ahead of the 2016 presidential election to silence two women who said they had affairs with Trump. He pleaded guilty to charges of tax evasion, bank fraud and campaign finance violations.

His plea came as former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was found guilty on eight charges in his financial fraud trial stemming from the federal investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election and possible coordination with the Trump campaign.

The two findings of guilt ratchet up the political pressure for Trump and fellow Republicans ahead of November's congressional elections in which Democrats are seeking to regain control of Congress.

It also increases pressure on Trump personally.

While Cohen did not name Trump in court on Tuesday, his attorney Lanny Davis again on Wednesday accused the president of being directly involved.

Davis has said he believes Cohen had information that would be of interest to Mueller, and in his interview with MSNBC on Wednesday suggested that it was directly tied to Russian attempts to interfere in the 2016 election.

Cohen had "information ... regarding both knowledge of a conspiracy to corrupt American democracy by the Russians and the failure to report that knowledge to the FBI," Davis told MSNBC.

Cohen "is more than happy to tell the special counsel [Robert Mueller] all that he knows, not just about the obvious possibility of a conspiracy to collude and corrupt the American democracy system in the 2016 election ... but also knowledge about the computer crime of hacking and whether or not Trump knew about that ahead of time and even cheered it on," Davis said.

He added, on CNN, that "Cohen has knowledge that would be of interest to the special counsel about whether Donald Trump knew ahead of time about the hacking of emails."

A U.S. grand jury has indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers on charges of hacking the computer networks of Clinton's campaign and the Democratic Party.

Moscow has denied findings from the U.S. intelligence community that Russia interfered with the election with the aim of boosting Trump and hampering his Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton. Trump has also denied any collusion with his campaign.

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