Could Trump attorney Michael Cohen face criminal charges for Stormy Daniels payment?

Stormy Daniels payment draws legal scrutiny
Stormy Daniels payment draws legal scrutiny 03:25

President Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen is a central figure in the Stormy Daniels controversy and has been at the president's side for years. Cohen admitted to giving Daniels a $130,000 payment to keep her quiet about her alleged affair with the president.

Daniels told "60 Minutes" she thinks Cohen was responsible for threats she received, but his attorneys deny that claim and say Cohen was just trying to protect the president. Cohen is often credited for his loyalty to the president, but that loyalty could expose him in potential FEC violations and put him in Robert Mueller's sights.

Sources tell CBS News' Paula Reid it is unlikely that special counsel Robert Mueller would independently pursue Cohen's deal with Daniels as it does not appear to have any connection to the Russian government. However, Mueller is looking at Cohen and if investigators find evidence that there was hush money to help Trump get elected, Mueller could refer that to the Justice Department for possible criminal prosecution.

"As a matter of fact, the exact sentence used was: 'They can make your life hell in many different ways,'" Daniels told Anderson Cooper for "60 Minutes." "I'm not exactly sure who they were. I believe it to be Michael Cohen."

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Cohen provides legal counsel and serves as a fixer, a jack-of-all-trades who seemingly can make unpleasant situations go away. He has a reputation for using aggressive tactics. In 2015, he allegedly threatened a Daily Beast reporter. The publication was working on a story surrounding Ivana Trump's rape allegation against her then husband, which she has since recanted.

"You write a story that has Mr. Trump's name in it, with the word rape and I'm going to mess your life up," Cohen reportedly said.
Stormy Daniels' attorney Michael Avenatti says Cohen has a history of using "thuggish behavior" and intimidation to protect his boss. David Schwartz, Cohen's attorney, maintains his client did nothing wrong.

"Mr. Cohen paid the $130,000 but the reason is to protect business, protect reputation, and to protect family," Schwartz said.

But the timing of the payment – 11 days before the election – raises red flags as a possible violation of federal campaign law.

"Mr. Cohen is getting himself into deeper legal problems that could make him more vulnerable in the Mueller investigation. I don't think that necessarily benefits others that are potentially the topic of that investigation including the president of the United States himself," former federal prosecutor Kim Wehle said.