US election officials drop Trump hush money probe

US election officials drop Trump hush money probe
The Federal Election Commission (FEC) has dropped an inquiry into whether Donald Trump violated campaign financial law through the 2016 election.

The case stemmed from an allegation Mr Trump directed his former legal professional to pay a grown-up film actress to stop her speaking out about an alleged affair.

The lawyer, Michael Cohen, was later jailed on multiple charges.

The FEC, the regulatory agency tasked with enforcing campaign finance law, announced the case closure Thursday.

It came following the commission, split evenly between Democrats and Republicans, became deadlocked 2-2 on taking action at a closed-door meeting in February.

The vote came months after an interior report recommended that there is "reason to believe" Mr Trump's campaign had knowingly violated campaign finance law.

Two Republicans who voted to dismiss the case said that they had concluded it could not be "the best make use of agency resources" while two Democrat-aligned commissioners criticized their decision.

"To conclude a payment, made 13 days before Election Day to hush up a suddenly newsworthy 10-year-old story, had not been campaign-related, without so much as conducting a study, defies reality," they wrote in a letter.

Cohen previously testified under oath that Mr Trump had directed him to help make the payment of $130,000 (£100,000) just days before the election.

Mr Trump has acknowledged reimbursing the payment but denied the affair and any wrongdoing regarding campaign laws.

"The hush money payment was done at the direction of and for the benefit of Donald J. Trump," Cohen said in a statement to The New York Times, giving an answer to the case dismissal.

"Like me, Trump must have been found guilty. The way the FEC committee could rule any other way is confounding."

In a statement issued through his website, Mr Trump thanked the commission for dropping what he described as a "phony case against me...built on lies from Michael Cohen, a corrupt and convicted lawyer".

Cohen, who once said he would have a bullet for Mr Trump, was presented with a three-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to multiple offences in 2018, including violating campaign finance laws and lying to Congress.

Legal wrangling over the allegations involving Ms Daniels, who alleges she had sex with Mr Trump in 2006, were ongoing through the entire Trump presidency.
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