Don McGahn, White House counsel, speaks during a discussion at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, U.S. (Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

Trump Didn’t Consult McGahn About Hush-Money Payments, Source Says

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump didn’t consult his campaign finance lawyer Don McGahn about hush-money payments that were made days before the election and are now the center of a criminal case, a person familiar with the matter said.

The absence of McGahn, who is now White House counsel, could be a key piece of evidence in any criminal prosecution, according to the person close to McGahn. Prosecutors could argue it shows Trump knew the payments were illegal and hid them. But Trump’s lawyers could counter that it’s a sign Trump didn’t realize they were related to the campaign.

Trump Didn’t Consult McGahn About Hush-Money Payments, Source Says

McGahn, the person said, expects to be questioned by federal prosecutors in New York about his knowledge of the payments, which were the basis for campaign finance charges against Trump’s longtime personal lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen.

Trump said in an interview with Fox News the payments were “not even a campaign violation” because “they weren’t taken out of campaign finance.” He said he only learned of the payments “later on.”

“In fact my first question when I heard about it was did they come out of the campaign, because that could be a little dicey,” Trump said in the interview, a day after Cohen implicated him and said the maneuver was designed to sway the election. “And they didn’t come out of the campaign, and that’s big.”

After initially denying knowledge of the hush-money, Trump was heard on a 2016 recording made by Cohen that appears to show Trump was informed of at least one of the payments.

Cohen pleaded guilty Tuesday to eight counts of tax fraud, false statements to a bank and campaign finance violations. He admitted facilitating -- at Trump’s direction -- hush-money payments to two women who claimed they had extramarital affairs with Trump. The timing and the financial details match allegations by adult film actress Stephanie Clifford, known professionally as Stormy Daniels, and former Playboy model Karen McDougal.

McGahn wasn’t asked about the payments in any of his three interviews with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the person added.

McGahn worked for Trump’s presidential campaign during both the primaries and general election. McGahn had little contact with Cohen during the campaign and actively worked to keep Cohen from having an official role, the person said.

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