Prosecutors: Trump used 'sham' invoices to mask payments to Cohen

Prosecutors: Trump used 'sham' invoices to mask payments to Cohen

Prosecutors in court filings released Tuesday said that President TrumpDonald John TrumpSunday shows preview: Trump sells U.N. reorganizing and Kavanaugh allegations dominate Ex-Trump staffer out at CNN amid “false and defamatory accusations” Democrats opposed to Pelosi lack challenger to topple her MORE relied on “sham” invoices from longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen to authorize reimbursement payments to the lawyer for hush money paid to adult-film star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal.

Court documents obtained by The Washington Post detail a $420,000 invoice for legal fees from Cohen in 2017 that prosecutors argue was inflated to mask the president's reimbursement of Cohen's payments to the two women and possibly others who threatened to come forward with claims of affairs with Trump during the 2016 election.

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Cohen “sought reimbursement for that money by submitting invoices to the candidate’s company, which were untrue and false. They indicated that the reimbursement was for services rendered for the year 2017, when in fact the invoices were a sham," prosecutors argued.

“In truth and fact, there was no such retainer agreement, and the monthly invoices COHEN submitted were not in connection with any legal services he had provided in 2017,” the filings continued.

Experts told the Post that the payment could constitute an illegal campaign donation due to the fee's size, which exceeds the maximum amount a single person or organization can donate to a campaign. Cohen has said the payments were made in "cooperation" with the Trump campaign.

“If you believe the theory that the payment was made solely for the purpose of influencing a federal election, then the recipient of the benefit would be the Trump presidential campaign, and therefore they would have received an impermissible excessive contribution,” Charlie Spies, a counsel with Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyMaher makes million donation to Democratic Senate super PAC Poll: House GOP candidate leads in California swing district Super PACs spend big in high-stakes midterms MORE's 2008 presidential campaign, told the Post.

The payments to Cohen had been previously reported, but the prosecutor's documents offered more insight to how they were made, according to the Post.

The prosecuting documents say that one executive in the Trump Organization told an employee to describe the Cohen fees as legal expenses, writing the words “retainer for the month of January and February 2017” as the description, according to the court filings.

Cohen shocked many in Washington on Tuesday by surrendering to FBI officials and accepting a plea deal on charges of bank fraud, tax fraud and campaign finance violations, while admitting in court documents that he made payments to Daniels and McDougal during the campaign at the direction of then-candidate Trump.

His plea deal came on the same day that former Trump campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortDem warns Trump: 'Obstruction of justice' to fire Rosenstein Ex-White House official revises statement to Mueller after Flynn guilty plea: report Former White House lawyer sought to pay Manafort, Gates legal fees: report MORE was found guilty on eight criminal counts related to his lobbying work in Ukraine.