Newly unsealed court documents reveal that in the days after the October 2016 release of a notorious "Access Hollywood" tape featuring Donald Trump boasting about groping women, he, campaign aide Hope Hicks, former lawyer Michael Cohen and top executives at The National Enquirer communicated with each other.
Disclosure of the tape was seen at the time as endangering Trump's election hopes. Cohen learned around the same time that porn star Stormy Daniels was considering going public with her claim that she had sex with Trump.
According to the documents, the FBI suspected that Trump talked to Cohen and Hicks at the time about "the need" to Daniels from going public right before the presidential election that year.
An FBI agent wrote in the document that, "I believe that at least some of these communications concerned the need to prevent Clifford [Stephanie Clifford aka Stormy Daniels] from going public, particularly in the wake of the Access Hollywood story."
Daniels claims she had sex with Trump in the mid-2000s. Cohen has said he paid her $130,000, at Trump's behest, in October 2016 to avoid Daniels going public with her allegation.
The Access Hollywood reference is to a tape of Trump talking in 2005 to that NBC show's then-host Billy Bush in lewd terms about women.
On the tape, which came to light in the weeks leading up to the 2016 election, Trump bragged about grabbing women without their consent, saying, "I don't even wait. And when you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the p----. You can do anything."
In the documents released Thursday, the FBI agent wrote: "I have learned that in the days following the Access Hollywood video, Cohen exchanged a series of calls, text messages and emails with Keith Davidson, who was then Clifford's attorney, David Pecker and Dylan Howard of American Media, Inc. ('AMI'), the publisher of the National Enquirer, Trump, and Hope Hicks, who was then press secretary for Trump's presidential campaign."
The documents filed by federal prosecutors in New York include a description of an Oct. 8, 2016, phone call Cohen received from Hicks, during which "Trump joined the call."
Hicks then had a separate call with Cohen, who minutes later called Pecker, a Trump friend. Then Cohen was called by Howard, Pecker's lieutenant. Cohen then called Hicks, then got a call from Pecker and then called Trump, with that final call lasting eight minutes, according to the documents.
Hicks was interviewed by the FBI about the phone calls with Cohen, the documents indicate.
Cohen, 52, is serving a three-year prison sentence from campaign finance violations related to the hush money payments to Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal, as well as for other financial crimes and lying to Congress.
He admitted arranging payments, at Trump's behest, to Daniels and to Playboy model Karen McDougal ahead of the 2016 election in an effort to avoid their accounts harming Trump's chances of winning. Cohen personally paid Daniels $130,000 through a shell company he created, and later was reimbursed by Trump.
McDougal was paid $150,000 by American Media to dissuade her from publicizing her claims of a past affair with Trump.
Trump has denied the women's allegations.
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California, in a Twitter post on Thursday said there was "ample evidence" to criminally charge Trump with the same crimes that sent Cohen to prison, referring to the campaign finance violations.
But prosecutors have suggested that no one else will be charged in the campaign finance probe.
Judge William Pauley III said Wednesday in court papers that, "The campaign finance violations discussed in the materials are a matter of national importance."
"Now that the government's investigation into those violations has concluded, it is time that every American has an opportunity to scrutinize the materials," Pauley wrote.
Cohen, in a statement released Thursday through his lawyer, Lanny Davis, said: "I and members of The Trump Organization were directed by Mr. Trump to handle the Stormy Daniels matter; including making the hush money payment."
"The conclusion of the investigation exonerating The Trump Organization's role should be of great concern to the American people and investigated by Congress and The Department of Justice," Cohen said.