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Trump’s Campaign Finance Catch-22

Is hush money to a politician's mistress “for the purpose of influencing an election” or “personal use”?

Oliver Contreras/CNP/AdMedia/NewscomOliver Contreras/CNP/AdMedia/NewscomMichael Cohen, Donald Trump's former personal lawyer, has pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance rules—those malleable laws that regulate how much of their own money Americans can spend to voice their political views, and that require citizens to report to the government their political associations. Cohen admitted to two felonies: knowingly and willfully facilitating an illegal corporate contribution and making an illegally large campaign contribution, in each case by arranging hush money payments to women who claim to have had extra-marital affairs with Trump. Cohen says he did so under the direction of "a candidate"—obviously Trump—and for the purpose of "influencing the election," a very important phrase in all this.

Democrats in Congress are already talking with renewed enthusiasm about impeachment, while a bevy of commentators on both the left and right now consider it a fact that, as John Podhoretz puts it at Commentary, "the President committed a felony." We can reasonably guess why Cohen pleaded guilty—the fraud and tax charges against him could have left him in prison for most of his remaining life. By pleading guilty, it now appears he'll be sentenced for just a few years. But leaving aside what Cohen pleaded to, are the alleged campaign finance violations really a crime?

Back in 2013, Antonin Scalia made a remarkable admission at oral argument in the Supreme Court when he said, "this campaign finance law [the Federal Election Campaign Act] is so intricate that I can't figure it out." Three years before that, a group of former Federal Election Commission (FEC) chairmen (including this author) warned the Court, in an amicus brief in the famous Citizens United case, that, even leaving aside specific prohibitions, the growing complexity of campaign finance law threatened free speech and political participation: "There are now unique and complex rules imposed by [the Federal Election Campaign Act] on 71 distinct entities," the former chairmen wrote. Further, they noted that the government also had unique regulations for 33 different forms of political speech.

In 2005, while presiding over the trial of a Democratic Party fundraiser accused of filing false campaign finance reports, federal judge Howard Matz told the FEC witness who was attempting to explain the reporting requirements:

"[T]o set up this regimen at the FEC, with the reporting consequences, and the transferring at least for accounting purposes of moneys, and the distinctions that some of the witnesses testified to before the jurors, I'm confident that the jurors—I would be surprised if any single juror could follow that extremely complicated evidence. I think it would be a lot more comprehensible to read the Internal Revenue Code from start to finish than to figure out some of the evidence that was issued on the Federal Election Commission requirements."

Increasingly, campaign finance laws now illustrate the classic situation where the government can always get you for something—it's just a question of what they'll get you for.

In the Cohen case, the prosecutors hung their hat on FECA's definition of "contributions" and "expenditures" as anything spent or contributed "for the purpose of influencing any election." That's a pretty broad definition, and certainly it may have been thought that paying hush money to Trump's old memories would "influence an election." Thus, they argue, payment of the hush money was subject to limits on the size of contributions used to pay, could not include corporate funds, and had to be reported to the FEC.

But there is another provision in the statute that prohibits a candidate from diverting campaign funds to "personal use." "Personal use," in turn, is defined as any expenditure "used to fulfill any commitment, obligation, or expense of a person that would exist irrespective of the candidate's election campaign." These may not be paid with campaign funds, even if they are intended to influence the election.

In passing regulations implementing the "personal use" portion of the statute, the FEC specifically rejected an interpretation that would have allowed campaign funds to be used any time the primary purpose of making a payment was to influence the election. Rather, it insisted that unless the obligation was created as a necessary part of the candidacy, using campaign funds was off-limits. Its goal was to prevent candidates from using campaign funds to pay personal expenses. After all, if campaign contributions can pay for tooth-whitening or buying new clothes for a debate, they appear much more like bribes than constitutionally-protected efforts to fund political speech.

The upshot is that TV ads, polling, hiring a campaign accountant to comply with federal laws, and renting office space are all examples of expenses that exist only because the person is running for office—they are campaign expenses. But if Trump or some other candidate were to tell his personal lawyers, "I want all the lawsuits against me settled. I think they're a bunch of B.S., but they're hurting my candidacy," the settlements would not be "campaign expenses," even though the payments were made to "influence an election."

Now we can see the dilemma the Trump campaign faced. It could pay with funds from outside the campaign, risking prosecution for failing to use campaign funds or file reports. Or it could pay with campaign funds, risking prosecution for an illegal diversion of campaign funds to personal use. "Heads I win. Tails you lose." Such are our complex campaign finance laws.

The best interpretation of the law is that it simply is not a campaign expense to pay blackmail for things that happened years before one's candidacy—and thus nothing Cohen (or, in this case, Trump, too) did is a campaign finance crime. But at a minimum, it is unclear whether paying blackmail to a mistress is "for the purpose of influencing an election," and so must be paid with campaign funds, or a "personal use," and so prohibited from being paid with campaign funds.

Normally, given this lack of clarity, we would not expect a prosecutor to charge those involved with a "knowing and willful" violation, which means a criminal charge with possible jail time. Typically, at most a civil fine for an unintentional violation would be the response. But prosecutors may be using a guilty plea from Cohen as a predicate for going after the bigger fish, and our simultaneously vague, sometimes contradictory, and incredibly complex campaign finance laws give them that opening.

Photo Credit: Oliver Contreras/CNP/AdMedia/Newscom

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  • Sevo||

    "Trump's Campaign Finance Catch-22: New at Reason
    Is hush money to a politician's mistress "for the purpose of influencing an election" or "personal use"?"

    Does it take tiny hands to grasp straws this small?

  • Just Say'n||

    Maybe. I know it takes a tiny brain to defend campaign finance laws and still pretend to support small government

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    This isn't some small straw. This is a massive, glaring contradiction in the law of campaign finance.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Works as designed.

    10 felonies a day if you run unsanctioned political office campaigns.

  • Just Say'n||

    Now do immigration law.

  • Just Say'n||

    This would also apply to all those who don't want to enforce immigration law now turning around and playing "Mr. Law and Order" on campaign violations.

  • BYODB||

    It's a valid point to bring up immigration law I'd say, although in the realm of immigration it is actually possible to comply with the law. That would seem to be at least one difference.

  • Just Say'n||

    I guess. I'm more so pointing out that there are bullshit law and order blind spots from people who support and oppose Trump.

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    Yes, immigration law is a mess. However, this sort of catch 22 where the only way to obey one rule is to violate another and both rules are felonies is a very different and much worse situation than the immigration law mess. Now, if you want to bring in environmental or labor law...

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    Not to mention that if they want to say "hush money to a politician's mistress "for the purpose of influencing an election" is illegal, then we get to retroactively impeach Billy-Bob and permanently ashcan his lovely (gag) wife.

  • Michael S. Langston||

    They cannot make it illegal without also making illegal all kinds of other NDAs (Non-disclosure agreements) which happen all the time.

    Such as divorce NDA where adultery happened.

    Of government silence on some charges with pleas to others and on and on and on.

    As a side note: I think Trump can use the exact defense Bill did (for public opinion anyway).

    Even if they determine the 'crime' is failure to disclose, disclosing would've provided 'private' information which could hurt his family.

    Adultery after all is a private matter.

    Ateast that's what James Carville told me (among others).

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Immigration law works as designed.

    Complex rules that dont usually benefit Americans but give more power to politicians and lawyers.

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    Truth!

  • Number 2||

    And this is why I say, especially given the complexities of the campaign finance laws: if there is no evidence that Cohen specifically warned Trump that why Trump wanted to do was a crime, or unless it can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Trump already was aware that what' he wanted to do was a criminal violation , Trump can argue that he relied on advice of counsel, and that he believed what he was doing was lawful because his attorney did not warn him about the criminality involved.

  • Presskh||

    Paying hush money to a mistress is not illegal unless Trump used campaign money donated by others to do so - period. However, since there is such a big deal being made about this private $100K or so transaction, let's compare it to, say, someone using the influence of their high-level cabinet position to get $145M donated to their own personal "charity" for 20% of the US uranium supply. And just for kicks, let's just say that the uranium is sold to our long-term enemy who just happens to have one of the two largest stockpiles of nuclear weapons on the planet. Or how about another real-life story, where a sitting President authorizes sending, without Congressional approval and in secret, $1.7B in cash to Iran, the world's largest state sponsor of terrorism. Wanna guess which story 90% of the media fixates on?

  • Ben_||

    Those laws should simply be repealed. Or invalidated by courts as a violation of due process and free speech rights. Why hasn't it happened already?

  • Brett Bellmore||

    Because the major parties find these laws useful for suppressing minor parties and challengers, and all the federal judges were nominated and confirmed by Democrats and Republicans.

  • Dillinger||

    .

  • ||

    Those laws should simply be repealed. Or invalidated by courts as a violation of due process and free speech rights. Why hasn't it happened already?

    I would have thought that Citizen's United would have blown the whole thing apart, but for whatever reason we as a society have decided that what it means is that while corporations can spend infinite money on political speech, individual citizens are tightly restricted.

  • Derp-o-Matic 6000||

    Oh noes! Not infinite money!

  • ||

    The point - you missed it.

  • Derp-o-Matic 6000||

    No, i got your point and you're not wrong, i just like mocking that expression.

  • ||

    Fair enough - carry on.

  • D-Pizzle||

    No, they're not. Under both McCain-Feingold and the holding of Citizens united, individual citizens may also spend unlimited funds on issue or candidate-specific advocacy so long as the funds and the spending thereof are completely independent from a specific candidates campaign.

  • ||

    Didn't know that - thanks for the clarification.

  • Just Say'n||

    "But prosecutors may be using a guilty plea from Cohen as a predicate for going after the bigger fish"

    What if such "big fish" (ie collusion) never materializes? Are we suppose to ignore the fact that the special counsel was first appointed due to intelligence leaks that were suggesting some nefarious plot between the campaign and the Russians?

  • Just Say'n||

  • Happy Chandler||

    Mueller didn't prosecute this one. This one was done by the US Attorney's Office headed by a Trump appointee, and the case managed by his appointee.

  • Just Say'n||

    And that still doesn't change the fact that this was uncovered during the special counsel's investigation

  • Sometimes a Great Notion||

    Was it? I just thought Stormy spilled the beans because Trump is a pig. I could be wrong.

  • Just Say'n||

    The raid on Cohen's house (no knock raid, mind you, for a campaign violation) was brought about by the work of the special counsel

  • ||

    no knock raid, mind you, for a campaign violation

    My guess is that Cohen had his hands in a lot more shit than just campaign violations - enough to have "justified" raiding his office.

    I don't find it hard to imagine that when Trump needed hush-money paid, he "called Saul" and got it taken care of.

    Whether or not Trump ever had Cohen do anything more than that, the local DAs around NYC probably know Cohen pretty well, and probably knew that if they could get some excuse to comb through his files, they could find enough to tell him "you either spend the rest of your life behind bars, or you cop to a couple of campaign finance violations - your choice."

    Don't get me wrong - it's some dirty maneuvering, but I'll bet that, if challenged, the prosecutors could show better cause for raiding Cohen's office than just suspicion of campaign violations.

  • Just Say'n||

    Suspicions must be proven. I don't put anything past Trump, but if law enforcement can't prove their case then they have no case

  • ||

    True, that, and I have been a bit dismayed that no one really seems to be making an issue of the violation of attorney-client privilege in a way that's making anyone defend themselves.

    I mean, yes, I heard the argument that if you just know for sure that the attorney is a crook (like, say, a mob attorney, just to take a purely hypothetical example), then you can get a warrant to raid an attorney's office in just the way they did Cohen's.

    But so far, we seem to be just taking the prosecutors' word for it. I'd sure like to see them have to defend what they did.

  • Happy Chandler||

    There was a special master. Cohen and Trump each had the ability to challenge claims of privilege.. At the end, they agreed with the findings of the special master.

  • ||

    Yes - it was a big enough move that I doubt they did it without being confident that Cohen is dirty enough for it to have been warranted.

    What I'm saying is that it is concerning to me that this isn't a bigger topic of conversation. The strand running through virtually all the coverage is "police raided his lawyer's office and went through his files looking for crimes to charge him with" without any hint that there's any cause for concern there, any explanation as to why that's not normally done, or any sense that it needs to be justified in this case.

    You need to have a pretty freaking important reason to violate attorney-client privilege like that, and campaign finance violations don't rise to that level in most people's eyes.

  • MoreFreedom||

    Correct, the prosecution was passed off by Mueller to the US Attorney's office; otherwise, there wouldn't be any prosecution of this.

    The astute thinker will ask "Was Hillary's payments to her attorney Perkins Cole, to pay Fusion GPS to pay Christopher Steele to create a fake dossier as a pretext to get Obama's administration to spy upon and investigate Trump's campaign and people, a payment to influence an election, or a personal legal expense? Seems to me Hillary is far more guilty of such campaign finance violations. It obviously wasn't for her personal use, and was clearly intended to influence the election.

  • ||

    This is why it pays to be an insider. HRC and her team, I can guarantee, are intimately familiar with campaign finance laws and just how close to the edge of illegality, nevermind outright immorality, they can get away with.

    Doing blatantly corrupt things that either aren't provable or aren't technically illegal has been a Clinton forte going back decades.

    Disclaimer: I'm not saying Trump is wonderful.

  • Happy Chandler||

    So, they used campaign funds for a campaign expense? That sounds fishy!

    Oh wait, it's what they were supposed to do. It's not that difficult.

  • JesseAz||

    God you're a fucking idiot. The law says you have to report the end receiver of money. You can't simply give your money to a third party and let them make expenses only reporting the third party. Yes, she violated the law. Just like she did with the straw purchase like transfers from State DNC groups to her campaign.

  • Happy Chandler||

    Trump's appointees made the decision to charge and to make the plea deal.

    Is he so corrupt that his appointees will make deals that implicate him?
    Or did he make such terrible appointees that they lie to the courts and make up charges to get him?

  • JesseAz||

    Again... You're a full idiot. You think political appointees make each and every charging decision?

  • Ken Shultz||

    Although the question of whether he reached into his own pocket or he used campaign funds may be an important distinction, but the pertinent question isn't whether what Trump did was legal.

    There are two really important questions.

    1) Will the Senate remove Trump from office over this?

    2) Will the American voter accept this as sufficient cause for impeachment proceedings?

    I think the answer to both questions is "no".

    Impeachment proceedings were probably a foregone conclusion before any of this news broke. The Democrats are probably taking the House come November, and if Nancy Pelosi doesn't impeach Trump for whatever reasons are available, the Democrats will oust her as Speaker and replace her with someone who will impeach Trump. She doesn't really have a choice.

    There's no way two-thirds of the senate will vote to convict because more than a third of the senators would lose their seats if they voted to veto a presidential election over a president paying a porn start to shut up about something he did that wasn't illegal.

    If you thought the deplorable voters were a force in 2016, just wait 'til 2020 after the elitist swamp tried to throw out Trump and failed.

  • Happy Chandler||

    Premise is false, conclusion is irrelevant.

    The road to impeachment is long. It will take a lot of evidence. This is pretty early when it comes to that. If there were tapes a la Nixon, we'd probably be there.

    The Democratic leadership and most of the caucus is of this opinion. As is Tom Cole (R-OK)

  • Just Say'n||

    And if you think that the electorate is not going to punish your party for undoing the results of the last election based upon a violation that is rarely prosecuted then you obviously don't remember the 90's

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Lefties have fever dreams of impeaching Trump.

    They never stopped to think that Trump is really the last person keeping Civil War 2.0 from starting soon. Rolling back all this Socialism is the only thing giving the Silent Majority hope that saving the USA is possible.

    Otherwise, it would be armed defense of the United States Constitution vs lefties.

  • Nardz||

    I keep saying this, but the faggots (not related to sexual orientation; from Latin fasces, the rod Roman lictors were armed with symbolizing their state-imbued authority to beat people; as in bundle of sticks harder to break than a singular branch, aka "stronger together") don't listen:
    election of Trump was the peaceable revolt against DC.
    Emphasis on the word peaceable.
    It need not remain so.
    Tree of liberty and all that.
    My advice to the faggots attempting a coup against Trump: be careful, for you may just reap the whirlwind.

  • BYODB||

    A lot of post-90's kids are showing their lack of historical knowledge left and right these days, and a lot of political commentators would rather deflect and mention Nixon than acknowledge that it's far more like Clinton.

  • Happy Chandler||

    1) Not my party.
    2) Not their plans.
    3) They're not as dumb as Gingrich.
    4) In 1998, Clinton had solid approval ratings and the majority was against impeachment. Trump's ratings are around 40%, and the impeachment question is closely divided. A couple more bombshells and it will be a repeat of Nixon.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    We get it, Chanandler. You're a Lefty from Team Left with Blue light.

  • GILMORE™||

    No, its Amsoc

  • ||

    It is definitely not Amsoc.

  • ||

    In 1998, Clinton had solid approval ratings and the majority was against impeachment.
  • ||

    *sigh*

    That was the endpoint of the process, after years of investigations that were supposed to be about Whitewater. That was the "oh shit, this really backfired" moment (not that it stopped the Republicans from pulling the trigger on that gun aimed firmly at their own feet), but the Republicans in Congress were getting increasingly unhinged at not being able to get anything to stick to Clinton.

    It didn't help that the Starr Report was weirdly pornographic in the wake of all the moral outrage about the blowjob.

    If Trump is more analogous to Nixon, this could be the start of his multi-year decline into impeachment/resignation. But if he's more analogous to Clinton, this will be the decline of his opposition.

    Remember how this was supposed to be about collusion with a foreign government, but now it's about campaign-finance technicalities having to do with porn stars? So far, it's sounding more Clinton than Nixon.

  • BYODB||


    Remember how this was supposed to be about collusion with a foreign government, but now it's about campaign-finance technicalities having to do with porn stars? So far, it's sounding more Clinton than Nixon.


    Exactly. I wouldn't say that the Nixon example might not become more relevant at some point, either, but the Nixon case started off with more evidence of something shady than we have two years into the 'Collusion' narrative.

  • Happy Chandler||

    Nixon started as a case of a break-in. It included fixing milk prices. With corrupt people, you find more and more crimes. We'll see how Trump turns out. Considering the crimes already around him, I have my guess. His campaign manager, deputy campaign manager, and National Security Advisor are all felons.

    Nixon claimed a witch hunt and out of control prosecutor until the tapes came out.

    The Clinton investigation started with a financial deal and ended with a blow job. If all they get out of the investigation is a some sex and a few senior employees who were agents of foreign powers at the time, well, we will have to see. Impeachment won't happen in the first half of 2019 and not likely in the second unless we have a big finding. It will be interesting if Democrats run the House SCI.

  • damikesc||

    Trump took the advice of his lawyer in regards to legality. At worst, he's responsible for having exceptionally poor legal representation.

  • BYODB||

    Yes, a break in performed by these guys:

    1. James W. McCord – a security co-ordinator for the Republican National Committee and the Committee for the Re-election of the President. McCord was also a former FBI and CIA agent. He was dismissed from his RNC and CREEP positions the day after the break-in.

    2.Virgilio R. Gonzales – a locksmith from Miami, Florida. Gonzalez was a refugee from Cuba, following Castro's takeover.

    3.Frank A. Sturgis – another associate of Barker from Miami, he also had CIA connections and involvement in anti-Castro activities.

    4.Eugenio R. Martinez – worked for Barker's Miami real estate firm. He had CIA connections and was an anti-Castro Cuban exile. Click here to read Martinez's account of the burglary.

    5.Bernard L. Barker – a realtor from Miami, Florida. Former Central Intelligence Agency operative. Barker was said to have been involved in the Bay of Pigs incident in 1962.

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    "His campaign manager, deputy campaign manager, and National Security Advisor are all felons."

    That may be true, but other than Cohen, no one has plead guilty to or been convicted of felonies that have anything to do with Trump's Presidential campaign.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    By 'long' you mean 'evidence free'.

  • Michael S. Langston||

    Premise is false, conclusion is irrelevant.

    You realize this explains every comment and idea you've made here?

  • AustinRoth||

    Everyone keeps overlooking the fact that House rules in place since the mid-1800's prohibit impeachment for events prior to taking office.

    Most of the Democratic leadership knows that overturning those rules will open an unending shitstorm of investigations and subsequent impeachment trials every time the President is from a different party than the majority. They don't want that, as it will expose them as well.

  • RPGuy16||

    And we all know the Democrats would never be dumb enough to overturn longstanding rules knowing that it might come back to bite them in the future.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Who was that Democrat dummy in the Senate who went nuclear on 60 vote requirement for SCOTUS appointments?

  • kc75081||

    people caught cheating to win typically have the win invalidated.

  • Michael S. Langston||

    Agreed Ken.

    I'd go further though and say even if he didn't report and that's the crime, it would only normally result in a fine.

    And he's got Bill Clinton's defense - this was about a private matter which could be embarrassing to his family. I mean seriously, why pay for an NDA if you have to tell others?

    Though agreed if they used campaign funds its trickier, but given Trump's wealth, it seems unlikely.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    So campaign finance law is the vague "breach of peace" catchall of the political world. They are anathema to the idea of free speech.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    Can you elaborate further?

  • Ben of Houston||

    In short, they are so vague and all-encompassing that they are essentially non-compliable, and if you are accused, then you are guilty. This falls into the old problem where police can arrest essentially anyone for doing essentially anything and call it "breach of the peace".

  • Michael Ejercito||

    How is this anathema to free speech?

  • BYODB||

    Because you can be found to be in violation of campaign finance laws for media buys regardless of how you bought them, at the very least, although it's not solely a threat to free speech but rather that is one of the many things it threatens.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    The fact that campaign finance laws are such that most people dont understand them is very telling how unconstitutional they are.

  • Ben of Houston||

    Because arbitrary laws are a common tool used to silence political opponents. That's just the thing that is happening here. Nonsense claims such as Trump getting normal profits from his company's holdings being an illegal gift from a foreign power, and that by settling a lawsuit, he has violated campaign finance laws.

    Anyone who isn't blinded by anger can see how reaching these claims are. This is so preposterous that a prosecutor who brought these charges should be in danger of being disbarred. Yet, we have actual officials of our actual government making these claims.

  • GILMORE™||

    Campaign finance laws are a joke and every campaign violates them dozens of times w/o even knowing.

    Any sufficiently motivated post-campaign investigation could invalidate any politician's victory.

    And perhaps that's sometimes by design?

    This Atlantic piece noted that Bernie received 1000s of donations from shady sources. What better way to poison your potential opponent than by *giving them money*? Sure, it would probably only be something that mattered post-facto in event of their victory... but why not do it regardless? Having dirt on them can come in handy. And this was just 1 example of a half-dozen problems w/ Bernie's fundraising activities.

    These FEC micromanagement powers enable dirty gaming of that exactly sort. If normal citizens commit 3 crimes a day, a political campaign commits 100. The arbitrary selectiveness of enforcement is far more-egregious a problem than the underlying 'crimes'.

  • Happy Chandler||

    "The notices from the FEC don't necessarily implicate the campaign in illegal activity or suggest that Sanders's presidential bid is built on financial fraud."

    So, Sanders and his campaign were not implicated. This was a violation without evidence of mens rea. He was given notice and, by law, had 60 days to remedy it without it being a crime.

    Cohen and Trump discussed this, and prosecutors notified the court that they had evidence that it was due to the election, not just Cohen's word. There were steps taken to disguise the expenditure and hide it from public view. That's what makes it criminal, not technical.

  • GILMORE™||

    "So, Sanders and his campaign were not implicated."

    You didn't understand the point being made.

    The point was that they had little/no control over who was donating money. Their lack of scrutiny however could have easily been used to indict them for campaign finance rule-violation.

    And this is only 1 of a half-dozen examples of stuff that was noted about Bernie (or the Clinton campaign, fwiw).

    The fact you think "Oh, but they were let off" (iow, that FEC didn't pursue them)... somehow *exonerates* them? just shows how little you understand the arbitrariness of what constitutes 'crimes' in campaign finance.

    The point wasn't made to somehow pretend Trump isn't a slimeball; his slimeballness is irrelevant: the point was that election "law" is a shitshow that can be used to pretend almost anything was 'criminal'. Hence the ()@#*$*()@ Catch 22 in the article title.

  • Happy Chandler||

    From the original article:
    "This happens so often in campaigns that the FEC's rules specifically allow 60 days from receipt to remedy the excessive portion of the contribution. The campaign has diligently honored these refund requirements."

    It wasn't something that could be used for an indictment. Read the whole article before calling someone a fuckwit.

    The rule: If the FEC informs you of a violation, you have 60 days to clear it up. That's not a criminal offense. You cannot be indicted.

  • GILMORE™||

    You're still pretending the point has something to do with Bernie's "individual violations" being OK, while Bad People's violations being criminal

    (*and Bernie is still settling some of these issues in 2018)

    You're a fuckwit because you're obtuse, and fail to see that all it takes to find "campaign violations" is to look hard enough.

    the point is about the system itself.

    not whether or not you think Bernie was as innocent as driven snow, and Trump is some evil schemer. Neither of which i give 2 fucks about.

  • GILMORE™||

    If defending the honor of "bernie" is all you care about...

    ... consider for a moment that, had Bernie won?

    He'd be just as "impeachable" for the above Australian Labor Party donations as Trump apparently is for a payoff to his former pornstar girlfriend.

  • Happy Chandler||

    Of course you can be impeachable. If you can convince half the house, you can be impeached for being a Yankees fan. I'd support that.

    That doesn't change the fact that he can't be indicted for these actions. It doesn't meet the criminal statutes.

  • GILMORE™||

    If you strip your butthurt-over-bernie out of this discussion, what of the below statement do you think is wrong:

    "Campaign finance laws are a joke and every campaign violates them dozens of times w/o even knowing. Any sufficiently motivated post-campaign investigation could invalidate any politician's victory. FEC micromanagement powers enable dirty gaming of that exactly sort. If normal citizens commit 3 crimes a day, a political campaign commits 100. The arbitrary selectiveness of enforcement is far more-egregious a problem than the underlying 'crimes'.
  • Happy Chandler||

    There's a difference between violations and crimes. Unintentional violations happen, kind of like if you miscalculate your taxes. Like the IRS sends you a note to fix your taxes, the FEC will send a note to fix the donations. If you act in good faith, then you fix the mistake, pay the difference, and go on your way.

    However, if you take actions to evade the requirements, that becomes tax evasion. You go to jail for that shit. Same idea here. They took actions to disguise the payments. The prosecutors (again, Trump appointed) have evidence that it was election related. This wasn't an unintentional, non-criminal action. This was a deliberate, criminal action. That's why he's going to jail.

    Bernie was indicted because he didn't commit a criminal offense.

  • Michael S. Langston||

    There's a difference between violations and crimes. Unintentional violations happen...

    Untrue. These violations do break the law and the laws are mostly statutory meaning motive/malice is not required.

    Lack of motive/malice should factor into punishment, but isn't a factor in determine guilt.

    Again you prove you're an idiot.

  • Happy Chandler||

    The law includes a mechanism. If you resolve them within 60 days, it's not criminal. If you make good faith, it's not criminal. If you perform actions to cover it up and deceive, it is criminal.

    Trump got on TV and said he didn't know anything about it. He was on tape discussing it. He was a criminal conspirator.

  • GILMORE™||

    Its amazing how i asked you to strip your butthurt-about-bernie+trump out of the issue, and simply deal with "what i actually said"...

    ...and somehow it had absolutely no effect on you whatsoever, and you just went on moaning about hairsplitting bullshit between "my guys violations are great, but this other guys are bad"

  • damikesc||

    You can be impeached for actions before you were President?

    That would be a first.

  • Happy Chandler||

    You can be impeached for anything that Congress votes for.
    There's no Constitutional definitions, so it's up to Congress to decide. It's unlikely a Supreme Court could second guess, as the Constitution grants the House sole power.

  • damikesc||

    You can be impeached for anything that Congress votes for.

    House rules currently bar impeachment for acts taken before office...but, yes, Democrats can yet again change the rules and then later bitch when it bites them in the ass.

  • GILMORE™||

    He's correct there's basically no legal details that specify terms justifying impeachment. "high crimes and blah blah" is meaningless. If the house decides to vote to do so, they can.

    But the shit he's waffling about re:

    " X "violation" is nothing, but Y "crime" is impeachable and OMG jail!!"

    No, he's being a completely obtuse fuckwit. as previously noted.

  • GILMORE™||

    And, just for shits and giggles...

    FEC releases damning 639 pages of violations by Bernie Sanders campaign

    And this isn't about Trump you fuckwit.

    Its about how, under guise of "regulating money in politics", the Feds can play Kafkaesque games with anyone who dares to try and run for office.

  • Happy Chandler||

    Again, none of those are criminal charges. It's analogous to making a mistake on your tax form. You get a notification of the mistake, and you can either challenge the ruling or you pay the charges. There is no criminal proceedings.

  • damikesc||

    Again, none of those are criminal charges.

    Because no prosecutor has decided to pursue them. If they did, they'd be criminal charges very, very quickly. Try and be sane.

  • Red Rocks White Privilege||

    Tell us how the John Edwards case turned out.

  • TrickyVic (old school)||

    With 1 not guilty and the rest were declared a mistrial.

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    this isn't some small straw. This is a massive, glaring contradiction in the law of campaign finance.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Works as designed.

    10 felonies a day if you run unsanctioned political office campaigns.

  • Rat on a train||

    Rather, it insisted that unless the obligation was created as a necessary part of the candidacy, using campaign funds was off-limits.
    So campaign funds can only be used to pay the cost of filing campaign paperwork and other compliance requirements. Nothing else is necessary.

  • Hamster of Doom||

    Intrigues, scandal, all the courtiers abuzz with the latest monumentally powerful development which will rock our enlightened era to it's very core.

    ...

    And moving on. How's the weather been for everyone this year? Dunno about y'all, but it's been weird AF in my area.

  • LynchPin1477||

    Plenty of rain, so good for mushroom foraging. Cooler than usual, but still some good days for being in the rivers. Overall, a nice summer. But I'm ready for cool fall weather, brown beer, and college football.

  • ||

    Summer never really arrived here (SF Bay Area). It's currently about 65 and overcast. We haven't topped 90 in weeks.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Trump paid over $66 million into his campaign. He doesnt get to use some of that for whatever HE wants?
    Opensecrets.org Trump campaign finances

    Trump took $0 in federal matching funds.

  • ||

    If only there were some way to disproportionately depreciate foreign assets flowing into the country, we wouldn't have this problem. We could just make "Russian dollars" worth 3/5ths what an American dollar's worth and say it's a wash.

  • Just Say'n||

    Except none of this has to do with Russia. That was a ruse all along

  • ||

    Fine. Depreciate all foreign currencies relative to our own.

  • Heraclitus||

    The question is why did Cohen have to spot Trump the money? And then why set up shell companies? Why have the Trump corporation pay for a purely private affair? There is an awful lot of smoke indicating that a catch -22 defense is pure BS. They obviously knew what they were doing was wrong, otherwise the so-called Billionaire would have just cut the check himself. And I'm sure someone out there is saying that he was doing it to hide it from Melania. But seriously, does anyone believe Billionaire Trump doesn't have the ability to cut a check for a few hundred K without Melania knowing it?

    The other damning fact is that it is pretty obvious that these legal nuisances that he wanted to clean up only came about because he was running a campaign. If Trump carried on as a reality tv star knowing he had affairs would not have hurt his image but probably strengthened it, hence, no lawsuit.

    So it is quite obvious that Trump made suspect moves. I agree with the author that our laws are very convoluted and he probably can mount a good defense. However, sometimes we get lost in the legal weeds and miss the big picture. This is just one more piece of evidence that our president is a lying scumbag. Ok. fine, maybe impeachment would be legally difficult, but the moral facts are verrrrry clear - he should resign now. It's that simple. If the GOP ever want to say that character matters even a tiny bit they would all be leaning on Trump to resign.

  • Just Say'n||

    You must have been a big supporter of impeachment based off of lying under oath

  • Ben of Houston||

    Did anyone actually vote for Trump not believing that he had essentially zero scruples? Anyone who had paid the least attention to the past two decades of the man's public life would know this. Voters knew exactly what they were getting. Moral character doesn't matter at this point, because people assume politicians are a corrupt pack of liars. In many cases, this has proven true, and it was demonstrably true with his opponent.

    Interestingly, for a compulsive liar, he is extremely bad at lying, and ironically, he might be one of our most honest politicians in history simply because he can't get away with anything, and he's slightly less subtle than an atom bomb.

  • ||

    Interestingly, for a compulsive liar, he is extremely bad at lying, and ironically, he might be one of our most honest politicians in history simply because he can't get away with anything, and he's slightly less subtle than an atom bomb.

    ^ This.

  • BYODB||


    The other damning fact is that it is pretty obvious that these legal nuisances that he wanted to clean up only came about because he was running a campaign.


    So you're saying the women only 'came forward' because they wanted money, which they received after signing NDA's so they couldn't then turn around and open their big mouths to damage his campaign.

    Considering the sex happened before he was running for office, as far as we know, it seems that it was a personal expenditure unless you believe that Trump buying a new suit must as a matter of course come out of campaign funds. That is your claim, yes? You know, since a new suit would influence the election.

  • drisco304||

    Sounds like you've been an anti-Trumper from the get-go.

  • M.L.||

    Did you really just ask why there was an attempt to cover up payments that were made for the purpose of covering up sexual allegations?

  • Michael S. Langston||

    Did you really just ask why there was an attempt to cover up payments that were made for the purpose of covering up sexual allegations?

    Exactly. He wanted to kepp the information private, but he had to disclose that?

    And per Bill, Hillary, Carville, and tons of others, it was a private mater.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    When did Carville say this?

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    During the Bill Clinton impeachment saga.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    Funny how a President's private sex life matters now.

  • turco||

    Yes our president is a lying scumbag. But the DC people after him are elitist pieces of shit who are out to "correct" the voters' mistake. Pot. Kettle.

  • Dallas Tom||

    Here's my take on this. The prosecutors knew that they couldn't make anything stick to Cohen regarding the payments - it just isn't against the law for a lawyer to facilitate a non-disclosure agreement for a client, certainly not when the client is paying for it out of his own pocket. Period. Full stop. However, they did have Cohen on some legit tax evasion and fraud charges. So, they had a real case against him but none of the real issues implicated Trump in any way, and they really wanted to loop Trump in somehow. So, they offer a sweatheart deal to Cohen as long as he agrees to plead guilty to two additional charges that would implicate Trump. They wouldn't have ever tried to bring these charges to trial, but if they can just get a guilty plea to totally bogus charges, now they have something they can hang they hat on. So, now we get to listen for the next two and a half years to how Trump was implicated in a completely legal transaction.

  • Nardz||

    Exactly, DT

  • drisco304||

    Good analysis. Too bad you aren't in charge of the opinion pages of a large metropolitan newspaper.

  • wreckinball||

    We have a winner. And Mueller is just going to continue hunting anyone associated Trump who may have jay walked at one time. Felonious jay walking has a 30 year sentence so either flip on Trump or else!

    That Mueller he is a hero. And so is his buddy Comey. Thank God they prosecuted Scooter and Martha. We are all safer now.

    And you know paying off a porn star is somehow illegal right, It has to be. I mean she's a porn start.

  • Happy Chandler||

    The money didn't come out of Trump's pocket. It came from Cohen and the National Enquirer.
    Cohen committed bank fraud to front the cash and then filed fraudulent invoices with the Trump Organization to be repaid.
    The prosecutors filed with the court that they have corroborating evidence that Trump was involved.

    That's a lot of fraud for something that's perfectly legal!!

  • Red Rocks White Privilege||

    Tell us how the John Edwards case turned out.

  • Kyfho Myoba||

    Exactly, Dallas Tom! The prosecutors know that just because they and Cohen agree that Cohen did something illegal doesn't make it so. They're relying on the fact that the American people won't get that. The SDNY knows that Cohen's plea has ZERO to do with Trump, but they're hoping that the rest of us won't figure that out. The fact is that even if the SDNY and Cohen agree in some plea deal that Trump is a puppy-kicking, baby raper that wipes his ass with the American flag, that "fact" must still be tried in a court of law if they want to incriminate Trump with it.

  • BYODB||


    Cohen admitted to two felonies: knowingly and willfully facilitating an illegal corporate contribution and making an illegally large campaign contribution, in each case by arranging hush money payments to women who claim to have had extra-marital affairs with Trump.


    Except that, in this case, it's absolutely legal by every legal measure unless campaign funds were specifically used. That's according to, at the very least, the former head of the FEC. They aren't the current head of the FEC, though, so I guess there's that. As far as anyone knows, that rule hasn't changed though.

  • BYODB||


    In the Cohen case, the prosecutors hung their hat on FECA's definition of "contributions" and "expenditures" as anything spent or contributed "for the purpose of influencing any election." That's a pretty broad definition, and certainly it may have been thought that paying hush money to Trump's old memories would "influence an election." Thus, they argue, payment of the hush money was subject to limits on the size of contributions used to pay, could not include corporate funds, and had to be reported to the FEC.


    They're making the case that politicians toothpaste, suits, vehicles, and literally every other thing they do suddenly becomes subject to campaign finance regulations. It also means that functionally a candidate can not use their own money to run for office under any circumstances.

    Yeah, that makes sense. If people want conservatives to stop mentioning the word 'coup' maybe they should stop acting like that's what they're doing. This statute is clearly being selectively applied, and that's a much bigger problem than they make it out to be.

  • wreckinball||

    Their "case" is just pin something, anything on Trump. It all makes sense if you realize that.

  • Happy Chandler||

    Why do Trump's appointees want to pin something on him?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Their operatives. Their job is to prevent Trump from rolling back as much government as possible.

  • Modus Pwnens||

    The statute isn't even being applied. That's the sick beauty of the prosecution's deviousness.

    Cohen is pleading guilty to something that he may not have done, and may not even be a crime even if he did do it, to avoid the possibility of being prosecuted for much more severe crimes. So his confession now becomes "evidence" that the payment was a crime. Nobody but Cohen has standing to challenge that in court, and he has no interest in doing so. Therefore the question of whether the statute applies becomes effectively irrelevant.

  • Kyfho Myoba||

    > Nobody but Cohen has standing to challenge that in court, and he has no interest in doing so.

    Nobody has standing until SDNY tries to use that "fact" against said "nobody," When that happens then they get to examine the parties to that plea agreement, under oath, a position no prosecutor ever has wanted to be in.

  • BYODB||


    The best interpretation of the law is that it simply is not a campaign expense to pay blackmail for things that happened years before one's candidacy—and thus nothing Cohen (or, in this case, Trump, too) did is a campaign finance crime.


    Exactly this. I'm glad at least one writer at this publication is capable of doing their homework. Excellent job Smith.

  • Michael Ejercito||


    In the Cohen case, the prosecutors hung their hat on FECA's definition of "contributions" and "expenditures" as anything spent or contributed "for the purpose of influencing any election." That's a pretty broad definition, and certainly it may have been thought that paying hush money to Trump's old memories would "influence an election." Thus, they argue, payment of the hush money was subject to limits on the size of contributions used to pay, could not include corporate funds, and had to be reported to the FEC.


    Did the leak of that Access Hollywood tape "influence the election"?

    Hell, do editorial endorsements constitute "Influenc[ing] the election"?

    The question should not be what constitutes influencing the election.

    The question should be what does not.

  • Just Say'n||

    Exactly. Prove that you didn't violate a crime. It's wrong that the justice system needs to prove that someone committed a crime. Should be the other way around.

  • BYODB||

    So what we're saying is that effectively all media outlets just made the case that they violated campaign finance laws. Yeah, that sounds about right.

  • Just Say'n||

    The premise that everything influences an election is a good rationale for eliminating the nonsense of campaign law restrictions.

  • ||

    Don't forget, CNN fed Clinton debate questions for free. So it was totally legit.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    Was that reported as a campaign contribution?

  • damikesc||

    The LA Times covered up a tape of an early Obama speech. The media also covered up a photo of Obama with Farrakhan. Hell, MULTIPLE writers conspired to protect Obama from criticism. Why did nobody on the Journolist get brought up?

  • Michael Ejercito||

    Maybe it us not too late.

    Trump should go after the media for campaign finance violations.

  • Happy Chandler||

    Media is specifically exempted. The Constitution, and all.

  • BYODB||

    Except they explicitly are not exempted. But hey, if you're on board with these laws being unconstitutional we're saying the same thing. I sort of suspect you just accidentally made that argument, though.

  • Happy Chandler||

    The Act and Commission regulations generally define the term "contribution" and "expenditure" to include money or anything of value given or paid by any person for the purpose of influencing a federal election. 11 CFR 100.52 and 11 CFR 100.111. However, both the Act and Commission regulations specifically exempt "[a]ny cost incurred in covering or carrying a news story, commentary, or editorial by any...Web site, newspaper, magazine, or other periodical publication, including any Internet or electronic publication" from the definition of "contribution" or "expenditure" unless "the facility is owned or controlled by any political party, political committee, or candidate" 11 CFR 100.73, 100.32; see, also, 52 U.S.C. §30101(9)(B)(i).

    http://www.fec.gov/updates/ao-.....exemption/

  • BYODB||

    So you said constitution, but mean statute / regulation which has already been mentioned to be broad enough to drive the entire U.S. population through. I guess you didn't read the article:


    Antonin Scalia made a remarkable admission at oral argument in the Supreme Court when he said, "this campaign finance law [the Federal Election Campaign Act] is so intricate that I can't figure it out." Three years before that, a group of former Federal Election Commission (FEC) chairmen (including this author) warned the Court, in an amicus brief in the famous Citizens United case, that, even leaving aside specific prohibitions, the growing complexity of campaign finance law threatened free speech and political participation: "There are now unique and complex rules imposed by [the Federal Election Campaign Act] on 71 distinct entities," the former chairmen wrote. Further, they noted that the government also had unique regulations for 33 different forms of political speech.

  • Happy Chandler||

    Okay, I'll speak slowly.

    In order to ensure compliance with the right to a free press, the press was exempted from the law.

    Yeah, Scalia was justifying his opinion in Citizens United. It's not that difficult, and criminal violations are rare.

  • damikesc||

    I was unaware the FEC authored the Constitution.

  • Michael S. Langston||

    Media is specifically exempted. The Constitution, and all.

    Damn you're dumb.

    The media are various corporations and nothing more.

    Per the Constitution: They enjoy no rights greater than any other corporation. Whether that Corporation is Google or Walmart or Amazon or Gannett (large media corporation) is doesn't matter.

    Additionally the 'press' as individuals have no rights above any normal citizen.

    You are an idiot.

  • JesseAz||

    You get dumber and dumber by the fucking post Chandler. The media doesn't have more rights than other citizens you god damn fucking piece of shit. Just stop posting. You're embarrassing yourself.

  • wreckinball||

    Paying someone to be quiet via a NDA with your own money is legal. Period.

  • Happy Chandler||

    That's true.

    Unfortunately, in this case is was money from Cohen and the National Enquirer. Keep up!!!

  • BYODB||

    And yet, just above, you made the claim that media are exempted. Weird!

  • Happy Chandler||

    I don't write the laws.

    Same source:
    Assuming it is, the Commission then considers whether the entity is owned or controlled by a political party, committee, or candidate, and also whether the entity is acting as a true press entity in conducting the activity at issue (i.e., whether the entity is acting in its legitimate press function). In applying this standard, the Commission considers whether the entity's materials are available to the general public and whether they are comparable in form to those ordinarily issued by the entity. See, for example, AOs 2005-16 (Fired Up) and 2000-13 (iNEXTV).

    Since they did not publish, they did not meet the press exemption.

  • BYODB||

    In those circumstances, exercising editorial control and choosing not to publish information damaging to a campaign is criminalized. It's prior restraint with more elaborate verbiage.

  • Happy Chandler||

    When discussed with the campaign, paying money to someone and not publishing is a crime. This was not a media act, it was an act in concert with a candidate.

  • Michael S. Langston||

    Unfortunately, in this case is was money from Cohen and the National Enquirer.

    Also not illegal. Other people paying your bills is not illegal (though should be reported as income I think).

  • Happy Chandler||

    It's illegal when done for campaign purposes. Which, as the Trump appointee led SDNY office filed under oath in court, they have corroborating evidence of, in addition to Cohen's testimony.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    The DOJ is full of Trump hating Lefties lawyers.

    Lawyers are know to be lefties. and they vote that way and contribute to campaigns that way.

    Lawyers love more state because it means that they get to interpret the complex set of laws and represent the innocent people inevitably snared in the web of laws that no American can possibly remember or keep track of.

  • wreckinball||

    So
    You can pay my bills this month
    I'm ok with it and it's not illegal
    Paying someone to keep quiet is not a campaign expense
    It wasn't paid by the campaign
    Case closed

  • JeffreyL||

    There is a reason they settled and could not get a conviction of John Edwards. I fail to see how this is different. It would be one thing if personal funds were not used. It would be another thing if someone other than the persons attorney paid the bill and then was reimbursed. However, all of this is standard personal dealings for the truly wealthy and celebrity.

  • Happy Chandler||

    1) Cohen was not acting as Trump's attorney in this matter.
    2) NY Bar rules don't allow attorneys to pay settlements for a client.
    3) If it was a loan to be repaid, that would have to be reported.
    4) The National Enquirer also paid.
    5) They didn't have corroborating evidence in the Edwards case. They did here. It's in the court filings.

  • Michael S. Langston||

    2) NY Bar rules don't allow attorneys to pay settlements for a client.
    3) If it was a loan to be repaid, that would have to be reported.

    You're seriously wrong.

    If NY bars rules are against this, that's a matter between the lawyer and the bar and only affects licensing. It's not criminal.

    2 - if you loan me 5 grand and I pay it back quickly, no one needs to report anything. You pay taxes or your income as I do mine, but you pay then I pay you, it's a zero sum transaction.

  • Happy Chandler||

    Loans to a campaign need to be reported. And, this was a campaign expense.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    How was it a campaign expense?

  • Kyfho Myoba||

    It was NOT a campaign expense, and cannot be construed to be one without some seriously tortuous logical gymnastics. As I have said before, just because something effects a campaign does NOT make it a campaign expense. The courts (and the previous FEC chair) are quite clear on this.

  • drisco304||

    For a campaign contribution to be illegal the contribution needs to be to the campaign or by the campaign. The payoffs described were neither made to a campaign nor by the campaign. This is much political ado about nothing. And the fact that Cohen pleaded as if the payments were a crime does not make them a crime. In his state of mind, he would have pleaded guilty to eating a bucket of fried chicken if his lawyer (a former Bill Clinton fixer) told him to.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    A contribution is to the campaign.

    An expenditure is from the campaign.

  • Happy Chandler||

    Research "In-kind donation".
    Paying bills for a campaign is a contribution.

  • Kyfho Myoba||

    Ridiculous logical contortions. Show me how it was for the campaign. Did Stormy invoice the campaign?

  • Kyfho Myoba||

    Ridiculous logical contortions. Show me how it was for the campaign. Did Stormy invoice the campaign?

  • Michael Ejercito||

    Would not leaking that Access Hollywood tape constitute an in-kind donation?

  • MasterThief||

    Following this logic? Yeah. Either situation is news, but I think intent has something to do with whether news outlets promoting such a story is an in-kind donation. Under that logic, I don't think it's hard to prove that much of the media were giving an in-kind donation to the Hillary campaign for years before the election and continue to do so after.

  • Michael S. Langston||

    For a campaign contribution to be illegal the contribution needs to be to the campaign or by the campaign.

    This is the true problem with the current laws:

    What exactly constitutes a 'campaign contribution'?

    As an example of this idiocy when Fred Thompson ran for office as well as Arnold for governor, TNT and others stopped running Law & Order with Fred and Arnold movies to ensure they weren't seen as campaign contributions.

  • Happy Chandler||

    Post Citizens United, not a danger. Unless coordinated by the candidate.

  • LeaveTrumpAloneLiberal-tarian||

    But there is another provision in the statute that prohibits a candidate from diverting campaign funds to "personal use." "Personal use," in turn, is defined as any expenditure "used to fulfill any commitment, obligation, or expense of a person that would exist irrespective of the candidate's election campaign." These may not be paid with campaign funds, even if they are intended to influence the election.

    You got that right Bradley. When I send my money to Trump so that he can MAGA all over Jeff Sessions do I really care if he spends that money to campaign for libertarian staples like a border wall or a prohibition on abortion. No! What he does with my money is his business. Besides, show me a presidential candidate who hasn't used an in-kind contribution to his campaign to pay off two hookers he fucked while his wife was sitting at home with an infant. That's just good old fashioned family values at work, Bradley. Keep up the good work of telling the American people that what politicians do with campaign contributions is none of their fucking business. As far as I'm concerned, The Sheeple can just STFU immediately about that!

  • M.L.||

    Did Hillary report the "campaign contribution" she received from Christopher Steele and the Russians they colluded with?

    Or, did they just use it to start a witch hunt and spy on political opponents with a FISA warrant under false pretenses?

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    Yes.

  • Happy Chandler||

    That was an expenditure. She traded money for services. It was reported.

  • LeaveTrumpAloneLiberal-tarian||

    It's a good thing you libertarians are here to hold politicians accountable for their behavior.

  • drisco304||

    This is just "GET TRUMP because he (fill in the blank with BS)." And when somebody points out that the BS is BS, then start again with different BS. Such is the intellectual state of the Democratic party and most of the mainline media.

  • Happy Chandler||

    And the Democrats that Trump appointed to the SDNY Attorney's Office?

  • Michael S. Langston||

    You should read more before thinking you know what opinion you should have.

  • Kyfho Myoba||

    Why do you care so much that they were Trump appointees? What possible difference does that make?

    Typical prog-tard, always trying to personalize the argument - just another form of ad hominem.

  • Michael S. Langston||

    This is just "GET TRUMP because he (fill in the blank with BS)."

    I don't completely disagree, but read into special prosecutors on Reagan and Clinton and even the federal prosecution of Martha Stewart and understand that when someone is given almost an unlimited budget specifically to find wrong doing, they will almost certainly find it.

    This is the main reason there were no special prosecutors against Bush or Obama. Because most politicians know it ends badly for all.

    But history does repeat itself, so here we are....

  • CE||

    But this time it's reached a turning point.....

  • Nardz||

    Obama flew on air force 1 to campaign for HRC, thus influence the election.
    Federal taxes fund the maintenance and fuel of air force 1.
    Therefore all federal taxpayers are guilty of violating campaign finance laws as we paid to influence the election.
    It's campaign finance violation all the way down

  • Happy Chandler||

    If it was used for campaign purposes, there is a formula for reimbursement.

  • Michael S. Langston||

    If it was used for campaign purposes, there is a formula for reimbursement.

    Wow. I wonder if you are failing to understand people's posts or doing this on purpose, but I'll still try to help.

    The point is if the President goes to NYC to deliver a speech on the anniversary of 9/11, prior to elections, that could impact the election, but is also. Presidential.

    IE - what is a 'campaign contribution' is much more difficult to define (under current law) than you think.

  • LynchPin1477||

    Honest question - wasn't there a third option? Pay the hush money out of the campaign and report it as a campaign expense as required. Admittedly that would probably have defeated the purpose of paying hush money, but would it have been a legal way to at least keep the payees from talking?

  • wreckinball||

    You mean disclose the very thing you paid to non-disclose. Yea makes sense. You should apply for a position on the Reason staff.

  • Happy Chandler||

    $130,000 for services rendered by Essential Consulting, LLC. Easy. Done honestly, nobody would notice.

  • LynchPin1477||

    He'd be disclosing payment, but not what it is for. Someone might be able to connect the dots or dig something up but Trump could deny and Daniels would have still signed the NDA and wouldn't be able to talk about it.

    But I mean, honestly, if he was worried about it leaking a much better option would have been to not cheat. The above option might at least have been legal. Ben's comment below is a good one on that front, though.

  • Michael S. Langston||

    As you implied, the problem with disclosure is you'd have to name where the payment went.

    Meta-data is a real thing :)

  • Ben of Houston||

    No, then he would have been arrested for personal use of campaign funds.
    Do you really think that ANYONE would accept him using official funding for his campaign to pay hush money to his mistress?

    Say that out loud. It sounds like a joke that you would hear about stupidly corrupt politicians. "Paying off my mistress was a valid campaign expense". I personally can't read that quote without it being followed by a laugh track.

    Do you really think that we wouldn't be hearing arguments that paying hush money was a personal expense and Trump was guilty of a whole host of crimes ranging from money laundering to grand theft?

  • LynchPin1477||

    There are people out there saying that if it was a campaign expense and if he had disclosed it, then it would have been legal (there was a piece up on Vox arguing this point explicitly).

    But I don't think that's a good faith argument and I agree that Trump's critics would be arguing exactly what you say if he had gone down that route. It seems like there probably wasn't a way for him to make the payment that his critics wouldn't have tried to argue was illegal.

  • Modus Pwnens||

    No way. That would absolutely be illegal use of campaign funds. There is nothing illegal, however slimy, about what Trump did. The courts have already decided this in the John Edwards case.

    By the anti-Trumpers' argument, it would be illegal for one of a candidate's friends to pick up the check if they eat dinner before a campaign speech, because it might help the candidate have higher blood sugar and be more vigorous during the speech.

  • CE||

    The standard practice is to hire the person you want to stay quiet as a campaign consultant.

  • buybuydandavis||

    No, as the author points out, that could have been interpreted as illegally using campaign funds for personal use.

    And with an actually reasonable legal argument.

  • wreckinball||

    I think the next step is to unleash the Mueller army on anyone who ever did anything with Trump. Find whatever they have ever done wrong, maybe felonious jay walking, then threaten to ruin their life unless they provide some dirt on Trump.

    Why do we need Russians? one has to ask.

  • Modus Pwnens||

    In Mueller America, someone cover dirt on you.

    In Soviet Russia, dirt cover you on someone!

  • Derp-o-Matic 6000||

    "Influence the election" is so vague and all-encompassing as to be meaningless.

  • Modus Pwnens||

    How much money has Mueller spent to influence the 2018 election?

  • Modus Pwnens||

    Oh I forgot. The deep state doesn't pay people off to keep them quiet, it grants them immunity.

  • Michael S. Langston||

    "Influence the election" is so vague and all-encompassing as to be meaningless.

    Yep. Same issue with criminal appeals - what constitutes both something the jury should have heard and would've likely changed the outcome?

    Given enough motivation, even the most egregious of trial errors can be ignored by the appealate under the all encompassing 'unlikely to have changed jurors' minds'.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    Any examples?

  • majil||

    Trump has been paying off bimbos and others for years . This was behavior the voters knew about.
    We all knew and factored it in . This is the Leftists picking fly shit out of pepper. . what a big ol' waste of tax dollars

  • Modus Pwnens||

    The fact that the prosecutor is going to let Cohen get away with far more severe alleged crimes that don't impugn Trump, in order to get him to plead to a stupid technicality that could impugn Trump, shows you all you need to know about the motivations for the prosecution. This isn't about bringing criminals to justice, it's about neutralizing a thorn in the deep state's ass.

  • Medbob||

    You call this "Reason"??

    A candidate can use his own money for any purpose he wishes. As for "influencing an election", every speech they make, and every impression made by the car they drive in with has an influence.
    Y'all have been listening to the failing media for way too long. You have picked up their bad habits and logic and reason don't fall into that category.

    Just because a victim pleads "guilty" to a crime does NOT mean that he COMMITTED a crime. That fact was not TRIED and therefore is not established as a fact. This is ESPECIALLY true if both the prosecutor and the defense lawyer have specific reasons why they or their interests would benefit from DEFINING the action as a crime in public opinion. If you are searching for a crime here, I would look to a "Conflict of Interest" on both the part of the prosecutor AND the defense lawyer.

    Hopefully someone has a notebook where they are keeping track of these things....

  • Ben of Houston||

    Did you actually read the article? He's accepting their reasoning as a rhetorical point before concluding that the claim is preposterous based on the results.

  • CE||

    It's also not blackmail blackmail, if what's being covered up isn't a crime at all. Or if the person paying volunteers to pay before the person asks for cash.

  • buybuydandavis||

    How were any of the funds spent by Cohen a "contribution" when he invoiced Trump for the expenses, and Trump paid the invoices?

    Lawyers spend money resolving legal matters. They invoice their clients. Clients pay. The up front money are not "contributions".

    The same is true of most any business to business service transaction. Client orders work. Business spends money to do work. Business invoices client.

    It's a Coup.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    I am starting to think this too.

    Hillary lost and so everyone who is not with Trump is lying and making up stuff to get Trump gone.

    Trump came out of nowhere and he is capable of rolling back the Nanny and Police State long with the Deep State.

    He is enemy #1 and it shows in the media.

    Trump is smart enough to have evidence of the forces against him and if he falls by the sword, patriots can then wipe out the traitor bureaucrats in the FBI, DOJ, NSA....

    I hope its not that but just some devious Lefties in last ditch efforts to stem the government roll back. Otherwise, its Tree of Liberty watering time.

  • Elilis Wyatt||

    You keep lying about Trump "rolling back" government. On that, he's already worse than Obama. In a year and a half, he's ALREADY added more to the debt ($10 trillion for 8 years, if no cuts), than Obama added after 8 years ($8.5 trillion.)

    Even worse when we realize Obama inherited the 2nd worst postwar recession, but handed Trump the longest recovery EVER for an incoming President. It's like when he was born -- on 3rd base -- but said he'd hit a triple!

    And they hope you forget what Trump was elected to do, overall. .
    INCREASE spending
    CUT taxes
    Pay off the ENTIRE federal debt in 8 years.
    With NO cuts in Social Security or Medicare
    AND assure health care for ALL Americans.

    Is that :"draining the swamp?" Or promising MORE freebies for everyone, like the Democrat he'd always been

  • Elilis Wyatt||

    HILARIOUS. Without reading a single comment, I KNOW that Trumptards will again claim a victory.
    So will the Trump haters!

    Only independents and libertarians will understand what was written. The author has no clue what the outcome will be ... or even should be. That is what he said. Thoughtful readers now understand why we here so many conflicting opinions and squabbling. They're both right. Or both wrong. Or either side is right.

    But that's a side show. Trump is already gone.
    (Or HDS)

  • Modus Pwnens||

    You can start posting as John McCain now to continue your tour of the dead people.

  • aajax||

    I don't think Trump would have even been mentioned (though not named) as having directed Cohen to do this if Mueller didn't have the goods on him. I know it's not Mueller's case any longer, but I assume he would be consulted on the plea agreement, since it affects his cases.

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