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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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Win McNamee/Getty Images

President Trump directed or was personally involved in multiple payments of hush money to women claiming to have had sexual encounters with him — potentially breaking campaign finance laws, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Why it matters: We’re now starting to get a picture of what Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, tabloid exec David Pecker and former Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg have been telling federal prosecutors, Axios' Jonathan Swan says.

What to know: New York City federal prosecutors wrote up an 80-page draft indictment in August to be used against Trump's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen, which outlined Cohen's coordination with undisclosed Trump campaign members via phone calls and meetings about the payments to women claiming sexual relationships. Sources familiar with the document told the Wall Street Journal that the unnamed campaign member was Trump himself.

How he did it:

  • In 2015, Trump asked American Media CEO Pecker to help him with his campaign. Pecker offered to use the National Enquirer to silence women who claim to have had sexual relationships with Trump, according to WSJ. He eventually paid $150,000 to model Karen McDougal, who claimed to have had an affair with Trump years before.
  • Cohen has also reportedly told prosecutors that he discussed with Trump the payments to former porn star Stormy Daniels in the weeks leading up to it, and how to ensure it could not be traced back to the then-presidential candidate.

The bottom line: In order to be guilty of federal campaign finance crimes, Trump would have had to used more than $2,700 worth of campaign contributions from companies or individuals in these payments, Richard Hasen, a law professor at the University of California, told WSJ.

Go deeper

Biden explains justification for Syria strike in letter to Congress

Photo: Chris Kleponis/CNP/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden told congressional leadership in a letter Saturday that this week's airstrike against facilities in Syria linked to Iranian-backed militia groups was consistent with the U.S. right to self-defense.

Why it matters: Some Democrats, including Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), have criticized the Biden administration for the strike and demanded a briefing.

8 hours ago - Health

FDA authorizes Johnson & Johnson's one-shot COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use

Photo: Illustration by Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Food and Drug Administration on Saturday issued an emergency use authorization for Johnson & Johnson's one-shot coronavirus vaccine.

Why it matters: The authorization of a third coronavirus vaccine in the U.S. will help speed up the vaccine rollout across the country, especially since the J&J shot only requires one dose as opposed to Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech's two-shot vaccines.

Updated 8 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

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