A CNN analyst with ties to the Obama administration floated several scenarios Saturday that he believes could lead to special counsel Robert Mueller including former porn star Stormy Daniels’ allegations in his investigation into Russia.
Mueller could target President Donald Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen for illegally giving Stephanie Clifford, known as “Stormy Daniels,” a $130,000 payout to keep silent about a sexual tryst she allegedly had with the president, CNN legal analyst Michael Zeldin said Saturday. He also floated the possibility that Mueller could use the payment as leverage to flip Cohen on Trump.
“Even though Stormy Daniels is not Russian, this is enough to go to Rosenstein and bring it into the orbit of the inquiry,” Zeldin said of Mueller’s authority to look at any matters that might arise from the probe. Cohen’s decision to buy-off Clifford, he said, could be perceived as an in-kind political donation even though it was made before the 2016 presidential election.
CNN has devoted several hours of airtime to reports speculating about the nature of Daniel’s allegations. One of the channel’s contributors even accused conservative media of insufficiently covering the news. CNN and other major media outlets doubled down their coverage after Cohen won a preliminary restraining order against Clifford in a secret arbitration in California on Feb. 27.
Mueller could also strong-arm Cohen with the payment and force him to flip on Trump, said Zeldin, who has worked for Mueller in the past and was a surrogate for former President Barack Obama in 2008. Trump’s loyal foot soldier might have to decide between his loyalty for the president and protecting himself from legal proceedings and potential jailtime.
“You have someone under investigation for one thing but you find out that they have done something else — so you indict them for that,” Zeldin said. “Mueller could say, ‘I have now potentially caught Cohen in unrelated criminal acts, and I’m going to use it as leverage.'”
CNN’s coverage ratcheted up further after Clifford filed a lawsuit on March 6 claiming the hush agreement Trump executed after the conclusion of the alleged affair is not valid. The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, says the nondisclosure agreement (NDA) is not enforceable because Trump never signed it.
The filing alleges the president did not sign the contract to maintain plausible deniability, which could allow him to disavow any knowledge of the agreement if it ever became public.
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