Legal experts say they don’t see how Trump could get in trouble for allegedly paying a porn star hush money

Donald Trump

  • The Wall Street Journal reported that President Donald Trump paid off a porn star with hush money ahead of the 2016 presidential election.
  • Legal experts say there’s pretty much nothing about such a payment that would put Trump in legal jeopardy.

The Wall Street Journal published a salacious story on Friday alleging that President Donald Trump paid $ 130,000 in hush money through his lawyer to a porn star a month before the election to keep her quiet about a 2006 sexual encounter.

If that is indeed true, legal experts say that while the morality and ethics of the situation are questionable, such a payment is not something that could land Trump in legal jeopardy — even as he occupies the nation’s highest office.

“I don’t see any legal implications,” said renowned Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz in an email to Business Insider on Tuesday.

The allegations in the Journal’s story were eye-popping: That one of Trump’s top lawyers, Michael Cohen, sent $ 130,000 to porn star Stephanie Clifford, whose stage name is Stormy Daniels, just weeks before the 2016 presidential election. The publication reported that Cohen arranged for the payment weeks before the election after negotiating with her lawyer on a nondisclosure agreement.

The alleged encounter, which The Journal reported was consensual, happened at a July 2006 celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe, a year after Trump married his third wife, Melania Trump.

Both the White House and Cohen denied the report, included a two-paragraph statement Cohen had sent to The Journal addressed “TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN” and signed “Stormy Daniels” that denied any engagement in a “sexual and/or romantic affair” with Trump.

“Rumors that I have received hush money from Donald Trump are completely false,” the statement said.

Soon after the report, some pointed to a portion of former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon’s comments in the recent book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” alleging that another of Trump’s longtime attorneys, Marc Kasowitz, “took care” of 100 women during the presidential campaign.

“Look, Kasowitz has known [Trump] for twenty-five years. Kasowitz has gotten him out of all kinds of jams,” Bannon reportedly said. “Kasowitz on the campaign — what did we have, a hundred women? Kasowitz took care of all of them.” 

A spokesman for Kasowitz told Business Insider the claim was “pure fiction.”

stormy daniels

‘Law and morality are distinct concepts’

But even if such hush money payments were as common as Bannon’s comments lead on, experts say there really is no legal statute they would be in violation of.

“While the law often codifies moral sentiments, law and morality are distinct concepts,” Andrew Wright, a former associate counsel to President Barack Obama and Vice President Al Gore and a law professor at Savannah Law School, told Business Insider in an email. “Assuming any sexual interactions were consensual and without more information, I don’t see a legal violation based on a payment to a sexual partner to keep quiet.”

“Based on the reporting, this tryst was alleged to have happened in Lake Tahoe. While adultery is a crime in some 21-states, Nevada is not one of them,” he continued. “As to this sordid episode, people will have to make up their minds about the president’s fitness for office based on their assessment of his character rather than a legal violation. Unfortunately, that payment was designed from preventing voters from having that information available to them on Election Day.”

Richard Painter, who served as chief ethics lawyer to former President George W. Bush, echoed Wright and Dershowitz. Not only did he think that there were no legal ramifications of the alleged payment, he added that “this sex stuff is going pretty hot and heavy” and said he thinks Trump “is benefitting from this because it makes him look like all the others.”

“A lot of these politicians are having affairs and even some of them have women coming forth that say they did stuff years ago, and Trump has that,” the University of Minnesota law professor added. “And the more I think the opposition goes down with looking at his sex life, I think they’re getting in trouble.”

If the president used campaign funds to pay Clifford, that could become problematic, Painter said. But he doesn’t see a window for much else “unless there is a clear law that is demonstrably broken.”

“So the point is, on these sex things … I think it’s sort of a tempting shiny object, because a lot of the Democrats are falling for it because of this #MeToo stuff,” he said. “And you know all I see is now you’ve got [Sen. Al] Franken gone and Trump is still there. I don’t see it as an avenue that pays off.”

SEE ALSO: The most conservative congressmen are going all-out to fight for Trump against Mueller and the Russia probe

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