Even though Hope Hicks, one of President Trump’s closest aides, may have had detailed knowledge of the scheme to pay off porn star Stormy Daniels, federal prosecutors decided privately that they didn’t have the evidence to charge Hicks with a crime, sources revealed to ABC News for the first time today.
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The news comes only hours after a trove of documents connected with the hush-money probe were released by the US Attorney’s Office in Manhattan. The records – hundreds of pages connected with search warrants issued in 2018 – show that Hicks, along with Trump, spoke by phone to former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen as Cohen formulated his plan to pay $130,000 to Daniels. The goal was to keep Daniels from going public with her allegations about a tryst with Trump in 2006.
The newly-unsealed court records suggest that President Donald Trump and his campaign may have had prior knowledge of a deal to silence Stormy Daniels, the adult film actress who allegedly engaged in an extra-marital affair with the then-presidential candidate in the weeks leading up the 2016 election.
In unredacted search warrant documents unsealed on Thursday, an FBI special agent described a series of phone calls in October of 2016 between the president’s former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, the president’s then-campaign press secretary, Hope Hicks, and Trump himself.
In between calls with Hicks and Trump – one of which was a three-way phone conversation – Cohen communicated by text and phone with two executives at American Media Inc., publisher of The National Enquirer, at times immediately afterwards. In those discussions, Cohen repeatedly invoked the name “Keith,” referring to Keith Davidson, the lawyer representing adult film-star Stormy Daniels.
The content of these communications is not made explicit by the FBI agent, but the timing suggests the group was discussing the hush-payment deal with Daniels.
In a footnote in the documents, the FBI special agent says Hicks later told investigators that “to the best of her recollection, she did not learn about the allegations made by Clifford until early November 2016. Hicks was not specifically asked about this three-way call.”
During her testimony before Congress last month, Hicks denied ever being present during conversations between Cohen and Trump about Daniels, or ever having direct knowledge of Cohen's payments to Daniels. Efforts by ABC News to reach Hicks for comment through her attorney were not immediately successful.
Two sources briefed on the matter told ABC News Hope Hicks will not be charged by prosecutors in the Southern district of New York. While Hicks did not have a formal cooperation agreement, the the sources told ABC News that she answered questions when confronted about the phone call.
In no way, the sources said, could Hicks be described as forthcoming. However, she answered questions when asked and her answers led prosecutors to conclude they could not establish that she committed a crime.
As part of the timeline of calls disclosed by prosecutors, after Cohen spoke with Daniel’s attorney Keith Davidson, he reached out on Oct. 8, 2016 to Trump, whom he was unable to connect with less than an hour later. According to prosecutors, Cohen then calls then-campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, but they don’t connect at first, but then speak for six minutes.
Conway has been previously asked if she had any knowledge about the hush money payments. “They didn't cross my desk as campaign manager,” Conway told CNN in May 2018. Reached by ABC News Thursday, the now senior counselor to the president confirmed her past statements still stand as accurate and she had no knowledge of the payments.
These new revelations come from a cache of documents unsealed on Thursday after the judge in Cohen's case ordered prosecutors to make public some documents related to Cohen's campaign finance violations, which he pleaded guilty to in August.
The violations to which Cohen pleaded guilty stem from the hush-money agreements which the documents released Thursday show were possibly being discussed by Cohen, Hicks and Trump.
Cohen was sentenced to 3 years in prison for his admitted crimes. He's been in ongoing cooperation with prosecutors since he entered his plea. During his plea hearing, Cohen told the court he had made payments to the women "in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office" who was later identified as Trump.
These new records were unsealed by an order from U.S. Judge William Pauley, who said that "every American" should have the opportunity to "scrutinize" the materials after prosecutors signaled that they had ended their investigation into the Trump Organization's involvement in the hush money payments.
"The campaign finance violations discussed in the materials are a matter of national importance," Judge Pauley said, denying the government's request for limited redactions.
The government confirmed the conclusion of the its investigation in a letter filed Thursday.
On Wednesday, after Judge Pauley suggested that the government’s probe had concluded, the president's attorney, Jay Sekulow, said the president’s legal team was “pleased” by the news.
Cohen's attorney, Lanny Davis, however, expressed displeasure with prosecutors decision to drop the proceedings in his own statement issued Wednesday evening.
“Case closed? Why is Michael Cohen — after all his voluntary cooperation and testimony that Mr. Mueller said was credible and went to “core issues” and all the information and documents he voluntarily provided to prosecutors and to congress — the only member of the Trump company to be prosecuted and imprisoned?" Davis said in the statement. "Especially since prosecutors found that virtually all of Michael’s admitted crimes were done at the direction of and for the benefit of Donald Trump? Why?”
In a statement of his own that he made from prison on Thursday, Cohen said that "as I stated in my open testimony, I and members of The Trump Organization were directed by Mr. Trump to handle the Stormy Daniel`s 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."
During his congressional testimony in February, Cohen testified that he had "pled guilty in federal court to felonies for the benefit of, at the direction of, and in coordination with Individual #1" who is known to be Trump. Trump has denied these claims.
Cohen had previously testified before Congress, and later pleaded guilty to lying about elements of his first testimony.
This is a developing story, check back for updates.