Prosecutors: Illegal hush-money paid at Trump's 'direction'

Michael Cohen, former lawyer to President Donald Trump, leaves his apartment building on New York's Park Avenue, Friday, Dec. 7, 2018. In the latest f

Michael Cohen, former lawyer to President Donald Trump, leaves his apartment building on New York's Park Avenue, Friday, Dec. 7, 2018. In the latest f

President Donald Trump exits the Marine One helicopter as he returns to the White House, Friday, Dec. 7, 2018, in Washington, after speaking at the 20

President Donald Trump exits the Marine One helicopter as he returns to the White House, Friday, Dec. 7, 2018, in Washington, after speaking at the 20

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department says Donald Trump directed illegal payments to buy the silence of women whose claims of extramarital affairs threatened his presidential campaign.

The allegation made in court papers Friday is the first time the government has connected Trump to what it says are criminal campaign finance violations.

Federal prosecutors say former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen arranged the payments "in coordination with and at the direction of" Trump.

The filing stops short of accusing Trump of committing a crime. Whether a president can be prosecuted while in office remains a matter of legal dispute.

Cohen pleaded guilty in August. He's said the payments to buy the silence of porn actress Stormy Daniels and ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal were made to influence the election.

Trump has denied having an affair.