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President Trump defends payments to women as 'private transaction'

President Trump defends payments to women as 'private transaction'


WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump on Monday dismissed payments to alleged mistresses just before the 2016 presidential election as "a simple private transaction," disputing claims by prosecutors that they amounted to a conspiracy to evade campaign finance laws.

Though some congressional Democrats cast the payments as potential cause for impeachment, Trump said investigators are looking for something to pin on him because they have been unable to prove any collusion with Russians who sought to influence his presidential election.

"So now the Dems go to a simple private transaction, wrongly call it a campaign contribution," Trump said during a series of early morning tweets.

Trump's former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, is scheduled to be sentenced this week after pleading guilty to felony campaign finance violations, financial crimes and lying to Congress about Trump's business dealings in Russia.

More: How Donald Trump's explanation of his role with Michael Cohen and the hush money payments has changed

More: Robert Mueller: Cohen provided details 'core' to inquiry into Russian coordination with Trump campaign

In legal filings released Friday, prosecutors said Cohen told them that when he made the payments to the women, "he acted in coordination with and at the direction of" Trump, whom they identified in the filings as [Individual 1."

On Twitter, Trump argued that, even if the payments amounted to campaign contributions, they would constitute a civil case, not a criminal one, and "there would not even be a fine."

The Federal Election Commission handles campaign finance violations that aren't "willful violations" or that involve smaller sums through civil enforcement provisions, which are typically fines.

"Whether they are important enough to justify an impeachment is a different question," Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., told CNN's "State of the Union." He is likely to chair the House Judiciary Committee when Democrats take control of the House next year.

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