On Thursday, the Federal Election Commission terminated its inquiry into former President Trump’s payments made to adult film star Stormy Daniels.
The Commission is comprised of six members: three Republicans, James ‘Trey’ Trainor, Sean Cooksey and Allen Dickerson; two Democrats, Shana Broussard, the current chairwoman, and Ellen Weintraub, and one independent, Steven Walther. Both Democrats voted that the case against Trump should proceed; two of the Republicans, Trainor and Cooksey, voted to drop the inquiry; Dickerson recused himself from the case, and Walther did not vote. Thus the vote was tied 2-2, which means that because there was no majority, the case was dropped.
Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, had alleged Trump told him to make hush money payments worth $130,000 to Stormy Daniels two weeks before the 2016 election. He pled guilty in federal court in 2018 for setting up a nondisclosure agreement for which he paid Daniels $130,000, as CNN noted. In December 2018, Judge William H. Pauley III sentenced Cohen to three years in prison for a variety of crimes, including fraud, lying to Congress, and campaign finance violations.
Broussard and Weintraub wrote, “To conclude that a payment, made 13 days before Election Day to hush up a suddenly newsworthy 10-year-old story, was not campaign-related, without so much as conducting an investigation, defies reality. Several of our colleagues instead voted to dismiss the allegations. Commission therefore did not have enough votes to pursue well-grounded charges that the former President of the United States knowingly and willfully accepted contributions nearly 5,000% over the legal limit to suppress a negative story mere days before Election Day,” as the Daily Mail reported.
Trainor and Cooksey countered, “In sum, the public record is complete with respect to the conduct at issue in these complaints, and Mr. Cohen has been punished by the government of the United States for the conduct at issue in these matters. Thus, we concluded that pursuing these matters further was not the best use of agency resources. The Commission regularly dismisses matters where other government agencies have already adequately enforced and vindicated the Commission’s interests.”
In December 2018, a judge ordered Daniels to pay nearly $300,000 in legal fees, throwing out her defamation suit against Trump; in March 2019, another judge dismissed another lawsuit Daniels filed against Trump in which she asked to be released from the nondisclosure agreement she signed in 2016 promising not to discuss her alleged one-night affair with Trump years before. Judge S. James Otero of the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles wrote that the case was moot because Daniels had not been held to the terms of the NDA, as Trump had stated he would not enforce it.
The Daily Wire noted:
In exchange for $130,000, Daniels (real name Stephanie Clifford) agreed just weeks ahead of the 2016 election that she would not publicly discuss her alleged adulterous tryst with Trump back in 2006. It is for this nondisclosure agreement, as well as another with former Playmate Karen McDougal, that Trump’s former “fixer” Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance laws.
In August 2020, a federal appeals court ruled against Daniels after she had filed a libel suit against Trump because of a tweet he had issued using a sketch Daniels helped to create of Trump alongside a photo of her ex-husband. Trump captioned the photos posted by another Twitter user: “A sketch years later about a nonexistent man. A total con job, playing the Fake News Media for Fools (but they know it)!” The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in California ruled for Trump. The Hill wrote that Trump’s legal team said the tweet, “amounted to an opinion about another user’s post and not a factual claim,” as The Daily Wire reported.