Michael Balsamo Associated Press Published 9:57 PM EST Dec 7, 2018 Washington – 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.