27 Aug 2018

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What does "held accountable for" (6th paragraph) mean?

In the history of presidential scandals, it is often the hidden things that end up proving decisive. Think, for example, of Monica Lewinsky’s stained blue dress or of Richard M. Nixon’s secret Oval Office tapes.

But in President Trump’s recent scandal involving Stephanie Clifford, the pornographic film star known as Stormy Daniels, something that was never there to begin with could play an unexpected role.

The missing item is the signature that Mr. Trump failed to place on Ms. Clifford’s non-disclosure deal two years ago. And if her lawyer has his way, there is a chance that the inch-long blank space could force Mr. Trump to testify about what he knew of the arrangement.

As the world found out in more detail last week, the man who structured the hush-money payment, Mr. Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, Michael D. Cohen, pleaded guilty to several charges in federal court.

Under the arrangement, Ms. Clifford was paid $130,000 just before the 2016 elections to not speak publicly about an affair that she said she had with Mr. Trump. In admitting to the scheme, Mr. Cohen not only implicated himself, but also possibly his former boss, in a violation of federal campaign-finance law.

It remains unclear, however, whether Mr. Trump, as president, can be held accountable for that offense.

That’s where the missing signature comes in.

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