Trump involved in 'nearly every step' of hush-money payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal: WSJ

  • President Donald Trump was involved in "nearly every step" of hush-money agreements with multiple women who claimed they had sexual affairs before he became president, according to The Wall Street Journal.
  • The newspaper, citing dozens of interviews and documents, also reports that Trump may have violated federal campaign-finance laws through his participation in the deals.
  • Trump has denied knowing about a $130,000 payment made to Stormy Daniels, an adult film star and director who alleges she had sex with Trump in 2006.
Stormy Daniels
Gabe Ginsberg | Getty Images
Stormy Daniels

President Donald Trump was involved in "nearly every step" of hush-money agreements with multiple women who claimed they had sexual affairs before he became president, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

The newspaper, citing dozens of interviews and documents, also reported that Trump may have violated federal campaign finance laws through his participation in the deals.

Trump has denied knowing about a $130,000 payment made to Stormy Daniels, an adult film star and director who alleges she had sex with Trump in 2006.

Daniels is currently suing Trump and Michael Cohen, his former personal attorney, in connection with a nondisclosure agreement barring her from discussing the alleged tryst. Trump has denied he had sex with Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford.

Cohen pleaded guilty in August to campaign finance violations, and admitted that he made payments to two women at the direction of a candidate for political office. The payments were made to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, Cohen said.

Watch: Trump underreported payments to Cohen in disclosures

Cohen's lawyer, Lanny Davis, said at the time that "Donald Trump directed [Cohen] to commit a crime by making payments to two women for the principal purpose of influencing an election."

Davis declined CNBC's request for comment.

The Journal reported that Trump, as a presidential candidate, "directed deals in phone calls and meetings" related to the women with Cohen. The U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan, which prosecuted Cohen, has reportedly also collected evidence of Trump's involvement in the agreements.

Daniels' lawyer, Michael Avenatti, told CNBC that the Journal's report "confirms what we have been saying all along."

In a subsequent tweet, Avenatti wrote: "In light of the sworn testimony and evidence relating to the payment to my client and Trump's involvement (confirming our allegations), we are calling for the immediate indictment of the president. No one is above the law in the United States."

Neither the White House, nor Trump's lawyer Jay Sekulow, immediately returned CNBC's requests for comment on the report.

The Journal's story begins with an anecdote about Trump meeting with his friend, American Media Chief Executive David Pecker, in Trump Tower in New York City in 2015.

The report said Trump asked Pecker what he could do to help Trump's presidential campaign.

Pecker then offered to have his supermarket tabloid newspaper, The National Enquirer, "buy the silence of women if they tried to publicize sexual encounters with Mr. Trump," The Journal reported.

Pecker's company later paid a Playboy model, Karen McDougal, $150,000 in return for her story. The Journal said that payment was made after "Mr. Trump asked Mr. Pecker to quash" McDougal's story.

McDougal was freed from her own nondisclosure contract with American Media in April, following a lawsuit in which she claimed that Pecker's company misled her about the terms of the agreement.

Trump's role in arranging the payoffs to Daniels and McDougal were detailed in an indictment that federal prosecutors in Manhattan were preparing to file against Cohen at the time he pleaded guilty.

Since that plea Cohen has met with prosecutors in Manhattan as well as with investigators from the office of special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating the Trump campaign's possible collusion with Russians.

Watch: Mueller's investigation could make money for taxpayers

"Mr. Cohen has also described to prosecutors his discussions with Mr. Trump and a Trump Organization executive about how to pay Ms. Clifford without leaving the candidate's fingerprints on the deal," the Journal article said.

Under campaign finance law, companies and individuals are barred from contributing more than $2,700 to a federal candidate. And donations of any kind must be disclosed.

But not everyone agrees that the deals constitute campaign payments.

Bradley Smith, a Republican former chairman of the Federal Election Commission, said in an email that the payments to Daniels could not be considered campaign payments "any more than a candidate paying for trash pick-up at his house, lest the shabby appearance of his yard lead to unflattering news stories."

As for the National Enquirer, Smith, who is the founder of the Institute for Free Speech, said that the outlet appears to be operating within an exemption for the media. He said the Enquirer's role in shielding Trump from harmful stories may be a violation of journalistic ethics, but not of election law.

"Magazines, papers, and broadcast entities regularly confer with candidates about what stories to run or not to run, or the candidate's desired take, and sometimes yield to the candidate's arguments or pleas," he said. "My purpose is not to say that is good, bad, justified, or unjustified, just that it is so."

Read the full report from The Wall Street Journal.

CNBC's Tucker Higgins contributed to this report.