Stormy Daniels: US election officials drop Trump hush money probe

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Stormy Daniels pictured in 2018 with a microphoneImage source, Reuters
Image caption,
The inquiry was launched in 2018 into a payment made to Stormy Daniels (pictured)

An inquiry into whether Donald Trump violated campaign financial law during the 2016 election has been dropped.

The case stemmed from an allegation that Mr Trump directed his former lawyer to pay Stormy Daniels, an adult film actress, to stop her speaking out about an alleged affair.

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

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

It came after the Federal Election Commission (FEC), which is split evenly between Democrats and Republicans, became deadlocked on taking action at a closed-door meeting in February.

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

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

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

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Cohen previously testified under oath that Mr Trump had directed him to 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.

Media caption,

Five things Cohen said about Trump

"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, responding to the case dismissal.

"Like me, Trump should have been found guilty. How 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 take a bullet for Mr Trump, was given 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 throughout the Trump presidency.