In a move that surprises exactly no one, the coup-attempting Donald Trump is declining to testify to a New York grand jury that's wrapping up its investigation of Trump's "hush money" payments to adult film actress Stormy Daniels during Trump's 2016 campaign.
We've known about that hush money for years. It was a $130,000 attempt, by Trump, to convince Daniels to stay silent about her past let’s-not-think-about-it interactions with Trump as Trump was battling Hillary Clinton for the presidency. While Donald Trump has paid a great many people over the years to not divulge bad things Donald Trump did to them, those were legal settlements. The Daniels cash was different because Trump and his then-lawyer, Michael Cohen, allegedly cooked the Trump Organization books in order to hide the payment for the sake of Trump’s presidential bid.
That’s already been determined to be a violation of campaign finance laws. The scheme had Michael Cohen pay Daniels from his own company's pocket, after which Trump's company reimbursed Cohen for an equivalent amount in "legal expenses."
Cohen received a felony sentence for his part in that plan, and has reportedly told prosecutors that Donald Trump himself was equally aware of it. In testimony to Congress in 2018, Cohen was unambiguous when he told lawmakers that "of course" Trump knew the payments were being made and that they were wrong: "Nothing at the Trump Organization was ever done unless it was run through Mr. Trump. He directed me to make the payments, he directed me to become involved in these matters."
Nothing came of it during the Trump "presidency," however. The news that the sitting president had personally orchestrated an illegal campaign scheme to hide one particular instance of cheating on his wife was not considered a compelling personal failing by the party that rallies behind the likes of Jim Jordan and Matt Gaetz, and Trump's numerous attorney general appointees were all of the opinion that a sitting president couldn't be indicted period, so his crimes were moot.
Trump isn't president now, though, and has no plausible immunity from past crimes. He's now being investigated for an impressive list of crimes in several states.
Cohen, who began cooperating with federal prosecutors after his arrest, is expected to testify to the grand jury today. Cohen will likely be the investigators' star witness when it comes to proving that Trump personally ordered the payments and the method by which they would be hidden. Trump was invited to testify himself, which legal watchers say is a hint that an indictment of Trump is more likely at this point than not.
Donald Trump, however, won't be talking. The New York grand jury will be blessed with that rarest of miracles, the thing that all the rest of us dream of at night: Donald Trump remaining silent.
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