Reason.com

Free Minds & Free Markets

Ignorance Is Trump’s Excuse

Given the president’s confusion about campaign finance law, how could he have "knowingly and willfully" violated it?

Donald Trump's critics say his defense of hush payments to women who claim to have had sex with him betrays a misunderstanding of campaign finance law. If so, it is hard to see how the president could have "knowingly and willfully" violated the law, as required for a criminal conviction.

Last week Michael Cohen, Trump's former personal lawyer, pleaded guilty to making an excessive campaign contribution by paying porn star Stephanie Clifford, a.k.a. Stormy Daniels, $130,000 in exchange for her silence about her alleged affair with Trump. Cohen also admitted he caused an illegal corporate campaign donation by arranging for The National Enquirer to pay former Playboy model Karen McDougal $150,000 for her story about sex with Trump, which it kept under wraps.

"Those two counts aren't even a crime," Trump claimed in a Fox News interview. He emphasized that he reimbursed Cohen with his own money, as opposed to campaign funds, which "could be a little dicey."

Responding to those comments, CNN political correspondent Chris Cillizza observed, "What Trump doesn't know about campaign finance law is, um, a whole lot." Yet Cillizza himself seemed confused, saying in one article that Trump "was making an illegal loan to his campaign" and in another piece published the next day that Trump "effectively [made] a campaign loan to Cohen."

Trevor Potter, who as a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission (FEC) should know, clarified the point in a Washington Post op-ed piece. Trump's reimbursement, Potter explained, "would just make Cohen's payment a loan to the Trump campaign," and "federal law treats a loan to a campaign as a contribution, subject to contribution limits and disclosure requirements."

Trump's confusion on this point suggests he did not deliberately flout the rules, which is the difference between a civil and a criminal violation of the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA). Nor is it clear that Trump needed to handle the Clifford payment the way he did to keep it hidden from voters: Another former FEC chairman, Brad Smith, suggests Trump could have reported the payment as a campaign expenditure under the boring heading of "legal services."

Smith is not convinced the hush payment should have been treated as a campaign expenditure. While Cohen said he paid Clifford "for the principal purpose of influencing the election," Smith notes that FECA prohibits the use of campaign funds "to fulfill any commitment, obligation, or expense of a person that would exist irrespective of the candidate's election campaign."

Even if paying Clifford helped Trump win the election, then, treating it as campaign expense would have been illegal unless it happened only because he was running for president. "At a minimum," Smith wrote in a Reason essay, "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."

As the disagreement between Potter and Smith suggests, campaign finance law is complicated. Since even experts argue about what FECA requires, it is plausible that Trump, who shows little interest in fine points of law or policy, did not know.

The Justice Department has long taken the position that a sitting president cannot be indicted. But the question of whether Trump committed a crime under FECA could figure in impeachment discussions, in which case the evidence that he was genuinely clueless should count for something.

While Trump may benefit from the excuse of ignorance, he refuses to cut Hillary Clinton the same slack. Two years ago, FBI Director James Comey said prosecuting Clinton for her "extremely careless" handling of emails containing classified information, which arguably amounted to "gross negligence" under the Espionage Act, would have been unjust without evidence that she knew she was breaking the law.

Trump is still complaining about that decision. Last week on Twitter, he argued that Clinton benefited from a "Double Standard."

© Copyright 2018 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Brian||

    All I know is, Trump definitely, probably may have done something that violates campaign finance laws, that he definitely, maybe knew was illegal, but maybe not.

    Can Hillary be president now?

  • buybuydandavis||

    We'll annul the Trump Presidency and everything will go back to the way it should have been.

    Like Dallas.

  • Jerryskids||

    Like Dallas? You're going to have a hard time getting Lee Harvey Oswald to reprise his role in that.

  • JesseAz||

    He meant the soap opera Dallas. It's all a dream.

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    I thought they all died in a plane crash

  • JWatts||

    "Can Hillary be president now?"

    Finally! Somebody who gets it.

  • damikesc||

    Hillary laundered $84M. Which is well over 1000 times more than Trump is alleged to have POSSIBLY violated law with. And there is not much question that what Hillary did was illegal as precedent ALREADY shows it was.

  • Ellis Wyatt||

    Lie Traces to the book Clinton Cash which is as fraudulent as Planned Parenthood selling baby parts.

  • damikesc||

    There is a suit out about that exact issue with in depth info. And Brazile stating that Clinton ran the DNC monies in 2016 is going to be a problem.

  • Ellis Wyatt||

    Thanks for admitting you posted a falsehood. The story does trace to Clinton Cash, which is like using Bernie or Elizabeth as a source. A lawsuit is not evidence, and you again fail to provide a link. Note that I would never mention the suits against the President by women as proof of anything.

    Provide a link for your Brazile claim. I myself have seen claims only by Sanders/Warren supporters. True? Ot poor losers. This is politics.

    On publicly known evidence, Trump is guilty of a lot more. Like his entire fortune financed by a convicted Russian money launderer. And his lie to cover up his son knowingly conspiring with with the Russian government which TOLD Junior the government's intent to help his father.

    Trump's ALLEGED money laundering is over $100 million. What we know, A convicted launderer of Russian money, was the ONLY bank that would lend to Trump, at time when his many bankruptcies made him among the worst credit risks in America, His following real estate purchases were .. cash ... no mortgages. Where did a deadbeat get over $100 million in cash? If it can be proven a convicted money launder (Deutsche Bank) made an unsecured loan (cash, no security) to a deadbeat, that's laundering Russian money, and prison.

    No offense, but this smells like the Uranium One bullshit, and the baby parts. Not that the left does not foment their own hysteria to tribal loyalists.

  • Kazinski||

    It's kind of funny how it's morphed from one violation to another. First, when that was all they had, they claimed the Trump tower meeting was illegal because it was csomething of value" provided by a foreigner, even though it had no value. Then when all of the Fusion GPS info break, they said that Hillary's payments through Fusion GPS and Christopher Steele to the Russians was ok because they were paying for the dirt. I never heard Don Jr. say he wouldn't have paid if the dirt was worth something.

    It also came out months ago that Cohen paid off Stormy with Trumps money. Nobody alleged a campaign violation then, now all the sudden because they got Cohen to plead guilty to campaign finance violations for going easy on him on the other charges, suddenly the same facts make Trump an unindicted conspirator.

  • Ellis Wyatt||

    they claimed the Trump tower meeting was illegal because it wascsomething of value" provided by a foreigner, even though it had no value.

    Never happened. It was always known as conspiring with a foreign adversary (Russia) for the specific purpose of the Russian government helping Trump's campaign. Dumbass Junior provided absolute proof.

    Russian invitation to Donald Jr.
    The Crown prosecutor of Russia met with his father Aras this morning and in their meeting offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.

    This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump – helped along by Aras and Emin.
    Source: Donald Trump Jr's own Twitter feed!!!

    THAT is an illegal conspriacy. And Trump knowingly lied about the purpose of the meeting, to hide the conspiracy. Until his dumbass son proved it was a conspiracy, and Trump a liar.

    The Oval Office has become a Clown Car. Lock them up! All of them. Jared was part of it.

  • David Nolan||

    Got it. I don't know murder is a crime, so I can assassinate him!

    This is a new low in lame excuses for Trump's limitless corruption and failures, but no surprise.

    The swamp will likely be even deeper, within a week. Why should this week be any different from all the others?

    MAGA: My Attorney Got Arrested!
    MAGA: My Advisors Going Away!
    MAGA: My Associates Getting Allocutions!

    Left - Right = Zero

  • buybuydandavis||

    Hihn - sock puppet = 0

  • JWatts||

    No, I for one believe that the sock puppet is greater than Hihn.

    Hihn - sock puppet < 0

  • Giant Realistic Flying Tiger||

    Hihn < 0

  • JesseAz||

    Mens rea, nor the ability to read, does not exist in hihns authoritarian world.

  • Ellis Wyatt||

    If murder is not a crime, then why can't he murder the President?
    Inventing stories about the poster's is called a cowardly diversion from the issue. So noted,

  • Hank Phillips||

    Um... the only person in that limo whom Oswald had bad feeings toward was former Navy Secretary John Connally. Connally's wife definitely asserts that the shot that hit Connally was different from the flat trajectory shot that wounded JFK. Connally had downgraded Oswald's discharge from the USMC to "undesirable."

  • David Nolan||

    And it's crackers to slip a rozzer, the dropsy in snide..
    But only on Thursday

  • John Galt Jr||

    Trump's tax fraud and his laundering of Russian money are his biggests threats, with the longest jail times Imagine him and Hillary in adjacent cells!

    Plus Donald Junior's witless confession to having knowingly conspired with a hostile power, Russia. Borderline treason.
    Or will Trump sacrifice himself to save his son, like Michael Flynn did for his? Hmmmm.

  • JesseAz||

    I don't get this idiotic collusion argument fr the idiots here... We know for a fact Hillary conspired with Russia for information and even paid for it... Yet trump is the target of ire based on.... A guess?

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    HILLARY IS A CANNIBAL!

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    She's not, but would be willing to become one if it won her the election.

  • Kyfho Myoba||

    Do a search with the terms 'Hillary Clinton' and 'kuru'

    Dare you!

  • Ellis Wyatt||

    Do a search with the terms 'Hillary Clinton' and 'kuru'

    MOAR proof of Trumptard idiocy. Thanks!

  • John Galt Jr||

    I don't get this idiotic collusion argument fr the idiots here

    I'll address your confusion. And prove it.

    Hillary tried to get information -- but got NOTHING. We "idiots" keep hearing Trump saying that the dossier had NOTHING. Now you say she was conspiring with Russia. Which is it? It cannot be both.

    The dossier, from Fusion GPS, was originally financed by a wealthy Republican, to block Trump's nomination. When Trump was nominated, Fusion sold the same dossier to Clinton,. It had nothing major, so they hired Steele to get more.

    Michael Steel is not an not agent of the Russian government!, and nobody says otherwise., That kills the Hillary collusion lie. Simple enough.

    Don Jr knowingly and willingly conspired with the Russian government, and we have rock solid proof! ... from Junior himself! (really stupid!)

    Junior's email exchange, for the Trump Tower meeting, proves a conspiracy. He knew he was conspiring with an agent of the Russian government ... to help his father ... because the dumbass released the email invitation which says so! (See part 2)

    Then Donald Sr conspired with Donald Jr., to lie about the meeting, claiming it was only about adoption. Nothing came of tat meeting, but conspiring means planning together.(look it up).

    The emails were the conspiracy ... and both Trump's were complicit. They will both be jailed. Open and shut. Now the proof.

    Cont'd

  • John Galt Jr||

    Part 2

    Russian invitation to Donald Jr.
    The Crown prosecutor of Russia met with his father Aras this morning and in their meeting offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.

    This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump – helped along by Aras and Emin.
    Source: Donald Trump Jr's own Twitter feed!!!

    LOCK HIM UP!

    Anything else?

    -Just one the "idiots here": (now watch the other ones go INSANE!)

  • Ben of Houston||

    That, my friend, is the only possible corruption that has been published.

    Their defense is that they intended to report the results of the meeting, but when it was revealed that there was nothing to report (the woman spoke only about an adoption program), they filed it away as a waste of everyone's time.

    There's a reason that the entire meeting subject was abandoned a year ago. There's nothing there. They fell for a dupe (probably deliberately set up by the Kremlin for this very purpose) and did so in a foolish way, but nothing actually happened. You can doubt the stated facts, and I don't blame you in the least, because it's so bizarre that this would occur in the first place. However, this is where we stand.

    This is why we are talking nonsense like claiming that he should have paid hush money out of a political campaign. That line of investigation led to no possible charges.

  • damikesc||

    But that she left that meeting to meet with the guy who was working with the guy who was paid thru the Clinton campaign to try and smear Trump raises a few questions.

  • John Galt Jr||

    damikesc,
    The emails are the conspiracy. Your comment is irrelevant .. and another crazy lie (Infowars?)
    Believe only what's proven. Not what's convenient. Or desirable.

  • John Galt Jr||

    Your ignorance of what conspiring means, has allowed you to swallow another lame excuse by our criminal President.

    To conspire is to PLAN. The emails are the conspiracy .... with the Russian government ... because the Russian government supported the Trump campaign

    And Trump lied about it .. twice I'm no lawyer, but he sure looks like a co-conspirator to me.
    He keeps screaming FAKE NEWS so that you won't be informed of all the PROVEN evidence .. this one from his own son! Witless.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    Trump's tax fraud and his laundering of Russian money are his biggest threats

    NY City banks knew Trump was a con man and deadbeat so he had to go to Russia for funding.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    So NY banks conspired with Trump to commit bank fraud, election fraud, and Russian fraud?

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    No, dumbass. New York banks shunned Trump and wouldn't loan a dime to him.

    How do you get "conspire" out of that?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    So NY banks conspired to violate federal law and commit bank fraud?

  • John Galt Jr||

    There was no bank fraud, There is tax fraud. He falsely reported the hush money as "legal fees" ,... and stretched it out at $50,000 per month to look like a retainer, and to have no record of a "repayment" in that precise amount. But the prosecutors found it. As soon as he said he paid it personally, he had to prove it. So they suckered him to provide the proof they needed!! (He's about as stupid as Junior was with the Trump Tower email!!)

    Oh, they also reimbursed Cohen at double the amount -- to cover his income taxes! Required by the lie that it was a attorney's retainer. If it had been a reimbursement, it would not be taxable income to Cohen, right?

    LOCK HIM UP. And we still don't know what his life-long bookkeeper (CFO) will flip, to have earned the immunity

    Any questions?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    So NY banks committed bank fraud, tax fraud, and violated federal campaign laws?

  • John Galt Jr||

    Trump did. NY banks refused to deal with him, and have no relevance here.

    Four bankruptcies and several other business failures kinda hurts one credit rating!

    Will you run away from the issue a fourth time?

  • Ben of Houston||

    In your proposed idea (none of these facts, to my knowledge, are substantiated), if he paid it in legal fees and Cohen reported it as income, how is there any tax fraud? It would be an unusual choice of how to categorize payments, but it's not illegal by an definition of the law that I know.

    In fact the only problem would be if Cohen did not report it as a business expense and deduct it from his taxes. So in your hypothetical scenario, Cohen actually overpaid his taxes by a substantial portion and is due a refund.

  • John Galt Jr||

    It's all been substantiated.
    You just stated the fraud!! Trump LIED that it was income tio Cohen ... you swallow the bullshit that it was a reimbursement ... and it was done by his business which is illegal

    It's not Cohen's deduction as a business expense. It's Truimp's tax fraud,
    If Cohen wrote it off as a business expense, them that is HIS tax fraud. He's been granted immunity.

    Read more broadly. Not just alibis by the guilty and propaganda. No offense intended

    P.S. To be clear on the nature of Trump's fraud, he "reimbursed" Cohen in monthly payments of $50,000 -- to hide the lump some amount (untraceable). He also paid it TWICE, presumably to offset Coehn's tax liability. Plus a bonus which is presumably to be the ACTUAL legal fee. All to coverup a blatantly illegal campaign expense. He's dead as a door nail, even without conspiring with the Russian government in the Trump Tower meeting.

  • John Galt Jr||

    NY City banks knew Trump was a con man and deadbeat so he had to go to Russia for funding.

    Precisely ... but not the con man part. All that matters to a bank is your credit rating. Trump's was in the toilet

  • loveconstitution1789||

    MAGA!

  • John Galt Jr||

    MAGA = My Attorney Got Arrested!
    MAGA = My Advisors Going Away!
    MAGA = My Associates Getting Allocutions!

  • LeaveTrumpAloneLiberal-tarian||

    Oh, don't worry. His suck-upsfine advisors will come up with some excuse. Which is perfectly fine as all I care about is the continuing success of the Trump agenda and the coming appointment of the greatest libertarian voice in modern jurisprudence— Brett Kavanaugh. I can't wait for that.

  • The Last American Hero||

    Kavanaugh > Garland.

  • John Galt Jr||

    libertarian =/= alt-right

  • buybuydandavis||

    Someone literate in math would have said

  • John Galt Jr||

    My literacy is political philosophy.
    And that's not math.

  • Red Rocks White Privilege||

    Dumbfuck Hihnsano using three socks in two hours.

    Using the first two exhausted him so much he had to take a nappy to get enough energy to shitpost with the third.

    *This message brought to you by Red Rocks White Privilege, the only HnR poster to be marked twice on Dumbfuck Hihnsano's Enemies List*

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    It's not a competition, RRWP.

    /only listed once on Hihn's enemies list.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    Not listed at all in Hihn's enemies list.

    *kicks rock, pouts*

  • loveconstitution1789||

    I was in top 5.

    Suck it CA!

  • Giant Realistic Flying Tiger||

    Hey, I got marked twice because the idiot doesn't know I'm Red Tony. It's in my username!

  • John Galt Jr||

    The very simpkle facts are tied together here on conspiring with Russia. Fully documented (Don Jr confessed)

    The tax fraud is easier, and here.

    Both on known facts.

  • Giant Realistic Flying Tiger||

    So you see, children, the Hihnpuppet feels the need to respond to a post insulting his master, despite having to pretend that the Hihnpuppet is not really Michael Hihn. Therefore, the Hihnpuppet says something completely irrelevant while linking back upthread, obviously outing himself as Hihn by doing so.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    He's entangled Hihnself in a Hinhfinite web of Hihnpuppets.

  • John Galt Jr||

    I was defending libertarianism. And facts. Having just read Nolan's proven facts.

  • buybuydandavis||

    "Trump's reimbursement, Potter explained, "would just make Cohen's payment a loan to the Trump campaign," and "federal law treats a loan to a campaign as a contribution, subject to contribution limits and disclosure requirements.""

    Complete bullshit. There is absolutely no crime here.

    1) There is no loan
    Trump - Hey Cohen, do lawyer work.
    Cohen - Work done. Here's your invoice.
    Trump - Good job. Here's your money.

    That's how business is done, particularly in services where the cost is unknown upfront. You make an order. They fulfill that order. You pay them.

    There's no loan there.

    It's simply absurd. Every service invoiced after the fact would constitute a loan. Not reality.

    2) Paying off bimbos to be quiet is not a campaign expenditure.

    The standard for a campaign expense is not "it would have some effect on the campaign", it is "you would not have spent it but for the campaign".

    Trump has probably paid off a lot of bimbos for confidentiality in his time. Lots of other people do. You have to argue that he had no other personal or professional reason to hush up these stories. Which is absurd. Of course he'd like to keep the bimbo eruption from his family.

    It is doubly not illegal. But the Left and the Deep State play The Big Lie incessantly, particularly where it comes to the Law. The prime weapon against the Constitution for a hundred years has been judicial authoritarianism. Judges and prosecutors just making up law.

  • JesseAz||

    Shhhh. You're not being woke.

  • ipsquire||

    The lawyer work can be billed later. The settlement payment isn't legal fees or lawyer expenses. This is why companies have in-house lawyers, in part.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    A campaign paying off anyone who might say something that would ruin the chances of the candidate to win ARE ABSOLUTELY campaign expenses.

    A candidate does not want skeletons coming out during the campaign, so they give people money to keep secrets. The campaign collects money to help the candidate pay for campaign expenses and keeping bad info suppressed is very helpful for candidates getting elected.

    Trump also didnt pay for sex. He paid for silence along with an NDA. 100% legal.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Pretty smart too. I wish I had enough money back in the day to pay off old crazy chicks that I fucked and get them to sign an NDA.

    This way, they come back later and say some shit, I can sue them.

  • Kyfho Myoba||

    > A campaign paying off anyone who might say something that would ruin the chances of the candidate to win ARE ABSOLUTELY campaign expenses.

    But they're NOT campaign expenses if NOT paid for by the campaign, as was the case with Stormy.

  • John Galt Jr||

    It is doubly not illegal. But the Left and the Deep State play The Big Lie incessantly,

    A far more honest and accurate summary is elsewhere on this page

    The standard for a campaign expense is not "it would have some effect on the campaign", it is "you would not have spent it but for the campaign".

    Hush money affects the campaign .. especially right after the Access Hollywood tape!

    Apparently, you would have voted Trump, even knowing that he was fucking a bimbo while his wife was pregnant. Well, that's what you've said here. How many Americans would have followed your lead.

    How many women would have still voted for him?
    Who'd ever been pregnant?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    MAGA!

  • John Galt Jr||

    MAGA = My Attorney Got Arrested!
    MAGA = My Advisors Going Away!
    MAGA:= My Associates Getting Allocutions!

  • Number 2||

    "While Trump may benefit from the excuse of ignorance, he refuses to cut Hillary Clinton the same slack."

    Jacob, the two statutes are different. A criminal violation of the campaign finance statutes requires a knowing and intentional act. The secrecy statutes do not. You are attempting a false equivalency.

    Trump's ignorance defense is bolstered by the fact that he can claim that he relied on advice of counsel. Unless Cohen's audio recordings reveal Cohen telling Trump that what he wanted to do was a crime, not only does Trump has a viable criminal defense, he also has a malpractice claim against Cohen.

  • buybuydandavis||

    "Trump's ignorance defense is bolstered by the fact that he can claim that he relied on advice of counsel. Unless Cohen's audio recordings reveal Cohen telling Trump that what he wanted to do was a crime, not only does Trump has a viable criminal defense, he also has a malpractice claim against Cohen."

    Why does it take Reason *commenters* to make relevant points about this story?

    I haven't seen any media touch on this issue.

    Clown World.

  • Nardz||

    I think known alt right troll and Nazi, Alan Dershowitz, may have mentioned it.

  • JesseAz||

    Andrew McCarthy at national review has done a great job of explaining the issues for both Hillary and trump.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    The media does NOT want to make sense of Trump's actions.

    The media, including many Reason staff, are propagandists. They twist the truth or known information to fit their narrative.

    Narrative: Trump is literally Hitler, so all ends justify the means.

  • John Galt Jr||

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Reason is not considered a primary source.

  • John Galt Jr||

    Donald Trump Junior's own Twitter feed proves you wrong on that too
    I can't help your ignorance of what "primary source" means.

  • DJK||

    Came here to say exactly this. Terrible writing, Sullum. Get your facts straight.

  • Number 2||

    And I say this not out of any great love for Donald Trump, but out of my professional revulsion against scumbag lawyers, of whom I have dealt with far too many. Michael "Watch Me Record My Confidential Discussions With My Client" Cohen is a doucebag beyond description. If Trump should be impeached for anything, it should be for being stupid enough to have retained Cohen as a lawyer and expecting to receive anything bearing even passing resemblence to reliable legal advice.

    And Cohen's lawyer, Lanny Davis, is no better.

  • Gaear Grimsrud||

    And as I recall Clinton signed a document upon taking office that explicitly laid out the rules and she agreed to abide by them. Comey pulled the whole ignorance of the law law thing directly out of his ass.

  • markm23||

    In addition, campaign finance laws are a such a mess that most politicians have inadvertently violated them. Secrecy laws are so simple that many 18 year old army recruits learn them. If Hillary could not comprehend them, she isn't competent to be a PFC, let alone a Senator, Secretary of State, or President. If she arrogantly refused to learn them, IMO that's an even better reason to send her to prison.

  • Rob Misek||

    Who is going to objectivity determine what anyone willfully knows? The state? Uh, i forgot.

    Until we have the human right to voluntarily and effortlessly record our memories for objective evidence people will get away with fraud.

    Until we criminalize lying, people will get away with initiating fraud.

    How will NAPsters plug that gaping ideological hole? With payoffs? With a state sponsored redefinition of fraud?

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    Who is going to objectivity determine what anyone willfully knows? The state? Uh, i forgot.

    I will.

    Until we have the human right to voluntarily and effortlessly record our memories for objective evidence people will get away with fraud.

    It's called a journal. Lots of narcissistic egomaniacs and 15 year old girls keep them.

  • Jerryskids||

    "Ignorance is Trump's excuse." Theoretically, I suppose. Good luck getting Trump to ever admit there's something he doesn't know. Trump would be the first (and only) to look you right in the eye and tell you he knows more about campaign finance law than those lawyers over there at the FEC.

  • JesseAz||

    Sounds like Obamas humble brag of knowing more than anyone who works for him.

  • Rockabilly||

    Who knows?

    Maybe - maybe not.

    But Jacob, one thing is certain.

    Hillary fucking Clinton will never be president

    And Bill will never be 1st male 1st lady !!

    ahahahahahhahaahhaha !!!

  • Juice||

    Is this where we talk about what no reasonable prosecutor would do?

  • Horny Lizard||

    Yeah welll Trump will have to subject himself to cross examination or interrogation if he wants to play the ignorance card. Trump will have to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth if he's going convince a jury it was all just a misunderstanding. Good luck with that.

  • Number 2||

    Actually, he doesn't. All he has to say is, "I relied on advice of counsel." See above.

  • wreckinball||

    All he has to say is he entered the NDA with his money to prevent embarrassment to his family.

    Done deal. This shit is just so f-ing STUPID!

  • John Rohan||

    There really isn't precedent for treating that payment as a campaign contribution anyway. The prosecutors tried that theory in the John Edwards case in 2011, and the jury rejected it.

  • Horny Lizard||

    The precedent was the indictment. A jury finding is not a precedent especially considering the facts are considerably more damning for Trump.

  • PubliusVA||

    The precedent, if anything, would be the judge's denial of the defense motion to dismiss the charges before they were submitted to the jury. The defense argued that the prosecution had failed to provide direct evidence that Edwards committed a knowing and willful violation of campaign finance law.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Payment to keep skeletons in the closet to protect a candidate is ABSOLUTELY a campaign expense. The less bad stories about the candidate, the greater chance of ballot win.

    A jury can reject anything including completely legal behavior. Juries do convict innocent people. When they do, a judge is supposed to step in and acquit the defendant. Its a check to jury misconduct. Just as a jury is a check to judicial and prosecutorial misconduct.

  • The Last American Hero||

    So is buying a suit or getting a haircut before giving a speech.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    As well as getting to and from said speech, preparations for speech, location costs for speech, and staffing.

  • Kyfho Myoba||

    But the candidate can buy those themselves, using personal, not campaign funds, and it's not illegal. Just like they can pay off a whore themselves, using personal, not campaign funds, and it's not illegal.

    I can't believe this is still a topic of discussion! The law is clear, and settled.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Its like Lefties dont understand that running a campaign can be like running a regular business, except you have extra rules and the business tends to get liquidated quickly if you lose the political position.

  • Horny Lizard||

    If you run for public office it's your duty to understand the campaign finance laws. You damn well know Trump was complying with the campaign laws in most cases. It's just not credible to believe he knew to comply in every other instance but not these instances.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Paying people to not expose skeletons is 100% legal. He put $66 million and change into his campaign fund.

    He could spend $66 million on coke and hookers, as far as I am concerned.

  • Horny Lizard||

    He can't enter into conspiracies at the outset of a presidential campaign with a media company for the purpose of expending hundreds of thousands of dollars cleaning up his public image and deflecting extremely politically relevant stories. Trump is the beneficiary of the criminal conspiracy. Pecker and Cohen are laying it all out as we speak.

  • DPICM||

    "He can't enter into conspiracies at the outset of a presidential campaign with a media company for the purpose of expending hundreds of thousands of dollars cleaning up his public image and deflecting extremely politically relevant stories."

    Why not?

    Is this illegal?

  • Horny Lizard||

    It's a crime to surpass campaign finance expenditure limits. It's a crime to submit fraudulent campaign finance reports. It's a crime to aid a criminal conspiracy evade detection when you are the beneficiary of the that conspiracy.

  • Horny Lizard||

    In addition to his exposure to campaign finance criminal laws Trump probably has exposure to more general federal fraud and obstruction charges.

  • DPICM||

    Generally, the things you list are criminal. The comment quoted from you above doesn't mention any of these new shifted goal posts.

    And simply listing crimes is not evidence that the crimes were committed, and I see no evidence whatsoever that there is any crime here.

    Paying off some bimbo is not illegal. Trump has done it likely hundreds of times in his life. That a couple happened to coincide with his campaign doesn't magically transform his usual behavior into a campaign contribution.

  • Horny Lizard||

    Trump didn't pay off the women. Trump relied on a media corporation to capture and suppress those stories. That level of cooperation and knowledge is what exposes Trump to the criminal conspiracy to exceed campaign finance limits and disclosures.

  • Horny Lizard||

    Trump paid off the people who paid off tbe the women.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Trump cannot give his lawyer payment for services rendered?

    Trump cannot pay a friend to pay a whore not to talk about the sex they had together?

    You Lefties and your made up crimes. Nothing you mentioned is a crime.

    Trump is so clean (relating to alleged committing of crimes) that the Leties are furious. Lefties cannot believe that Trump is so good about keeping his nose clean. Trump also knew that he needed to keep his nose clean when running against a crook like Hillary.

    Trump ain't worried and neither are non-Lefties.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    How is suppressing stories illegal?

    The Democrats get media outlets to suppress stories all the time. So its illegal for Trump to do but not illegal for Democrats to do it for 50 years?

    Good to know. I would take a criminal indictment of Trump if every Democrat politician in office right now is indicted and removed from office. It would totally be worth it.

    Then Pence could pardon Trump. hahaha.

  • DPICM||

    "Trump relied on a media corporation to capture and suppress those stories." Yes, but my point is that this isn't illegal.

    It doesn't matter if Trump "conspired." Conspiracy is not illegal unless you are conspiring to do something illegal or to do something that is legal through illegal means.

    Some examples:

    You and I conspire to secretly buy tickets to the Nats game and cover up our purchases - no crime.

    You and I conspire to attend the Nats game by sneaking into the stadium - criminal conspiracy because even though attending a Nat's game is not illegal, it is illegal to not pay for your ticket.

    You and I conspire to secretly buy tickets to an underground sex club where a woman will be raped and cover up our purchases - criminal conspiracy because the underlying act is illegal.

  • Ben of Houston||

    What media corporation? Who in the media suppressed any stories about Trump?
    Even if they did, the only law that would be broken is the money.

    This is all about whether Trump should have paid Daniels out of the campaign or whether he was banned from doing so. Trump's reasoning that he was prohibited from doing so is, to be frank, the conclusion that I am more likely to accept.

  • Kyfho Myoba||

    Horny Lizard, if he's using his own money, he can do what he damn well pleases to do. None of these allegations amount to a violation of campaign finance statutes. See previous comment.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    All nothing burgers and all the Lefties know it.

    Lefties also know that the Silent is not being fooled by the propaganda coming out of media outlets.

  • damikesc||

    Obama shut off the address verification portion of his fundraising site, a setting that, by default, is set to on. This lalowed non-US donations to flood in.

    Should he have been imprisoned or impeached?

    Hillary laundered $84m in 2016 through the DNC.

  • Michael Cook||

    It appears China was reading Hillary's mail on her throwaway server, in real time. Just a matter of a few lines of code that copied everything and forwarded it to a company in Beijing.

    Now Hillary had a throwaway server in the first place because time is money and she knew she had limited time as Sec. of State to raise a whole lot of money to fix up the Clinton Foundation as the workhorse of her 2016 campaign, staffed with all her old loyalists on generous salary and able to throw lots of cash in any direction for any purpose and think up a justification later.

    She intended to sell access to State. For convenience she would happily conflate her private and public business (even top secret business) because expediency was key. Her email traffic would be exclusive to insiders (like Obama) and she intended to flush it all at the end of the day anyhow.

    Security was the last thing on her mind. Top priority was avoiding FOIA requests and official government records acts which would crop up later. None of those considerations were weighed in ignorance.

    Trump is talking today about the significance of China having the 33,000 emails. If true, that lode may have given China tremendous leverage over the Democrat Party, desperate to protect the Obama/Clinton legacy. In fact, fear of what stories the emails will tell may have fueled the whole Deep State-Russia Probe distraction. Mueller was told to go get Trump by Big Mainstream Media monopolists terrified of offending China.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    I read all that on wingnut.com too.

  • Michael Cook||

    We wingnuts are piling up the facts, the evidence, all those pesky irrefutable things that just won't go away

  • loveconstitution1789||

    That is why Lefties are attacking alternate news platforms.

    The Lefty narrative is falling apart. This narrative required Hillary to be president to cover it up and the media to keep any stories under wraps.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Chinese spying in America is a huge under-reported area.

    I cant say if its even partially intentional but the few cases of Chinese spying that do surface, have exposed what the Chinese are doing. They infiltrate tech companies with Chinese nationals that are spies, Chinese students in US colleges (they threaten families back in China), and Chinese-American naturalized citizens (they threaten family back in China) and try to steal American tech.

    Military tech is of great importance.

  • Horny Lizard||

    Trump has already betrayed a guilty mind when he lied about knowing anything about the payments. Those lies and all that scheming are evidence of a guilty mind.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Everything Trump says is a lie, according to Lefties like you.

    Now you trust what he says?

  • DPICM||

    Jesus fuck that last paragraph comparing Trump to Clinton is stupid. The difference is that campaign finance laws DO have a mens rea requirement whereas classified information laws DON'T. So there is nothing hypocritical about saying that Trump should be cut slack for lack of knowledge where knowledge is required while Clinton should not because her violation falls under a strict liability standard.

    If you're going to take shots at the guy, it helps to aim at a viable target so you don't come off as a retard.

  • Rhokaza||

    In addition Clinton almost certainly had to read and sign documents which detail specifically how to classify and handle information. I have never worked in government and touched classified docs, but I assume their training is more strict than what I have gone through in the private sector. In my industry ignorance isn't an excuse specifically because you attest that you have read through the required infosec docs and the data classification docs and understand them and will follow them. I'd suspect that the Secretary of State would be held to a higher standard than me.

  • damikesc||

    Hillary also fired people for doing PRECISELY what she did and had multiple trainings about the SPECIFIC issue she was accused of.

  • Horny Lizard||

    Ignorance is an affirmative defense. It presumes that Trump committed the elements of a crime but lacked the knowledge that what he was committing was wrong or illegal. Trump will have to prove it was a misunderstanding. I seriously doubt Trump can prove that to a jury. If Trump was interested in complying with the law he would have disclosed it all to the relevant campaign authorities long ago. Trump has access to unlimited of expect advice. Trump knew there was trouble but he's been hiding it all and relying upon other criminal conspirators to deflect the charge. When you go to court this lying shit doesn't play. Lawyers, judges and juries will eat his ass alive if he tries to bullshit them the way Trump bullshits the American people.

  • DPICM||

    Actually, you have it exactly backwards. The prosecutor has to prove every element of the alleged crime, including the mens rea element. Trump doesn't have to prove shit, and once the prosecution is done, if they haven't proven knowledge, his entire defense can be "I move for judgment of acquittal under federal rule of criminal procedure 29."

    If the prosecutor offers sufficient proof for a conviction, only then would Trump have to expend any effort trying to punch holes in it. And then, he only has to knock enough holes in it to get back below the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard. He does not have to conclusively prove that he didn't know anything, which is impossible because you would be asking him to prove a negative.

  • Horny Lizard||

    I agree with you about the burden of proof and that it has to be met before Trump is required to dispute anything at a criminal trial. But there is evidence of that guilty mind. You're aldo neglecting to consider Trump's exposure to the general fraud criminal law because of the way Trump helped the co conspirators evade detection. At some point Trump was made aware that these payments by third parties of his behalf were violations of criminal law and his actions thereafter will give us an insight into Trump's mens rea. Did Trump take steps to conveal his involvement in the conspiracy? Yes he did. Did Trump attempt to correct his honest mistake or did he take steps to conceal it? These are relevant questions.

  • DPICM||

    Fair point about what could or could not be and what may be relevant - but the reality is that very few people (and in particular neither of us) have seen whatever actual "evidence" may exist. It is premature to jump to any conclusions before that, regardless of how many media outlets from whatever side of the spectrum are pushing the same narrative.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    There is zero evidence of your allegations.

    The difference between Lefties and non-Lefties is that if actual evidence of a crime is presented against anyone, it will be considered by non-Lefties, based on Rule of Law.

    Lefties attack any collection of evidence, submission of evidence, and talk of evidence when a Lefty is involved.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    Even if paying Clifford helped Trump win the election, then, treating it as campaign expense would have been illegal unless it happened only because he was running for president.

    Isn't it plausible though that the payoff really was only made because he was running for president? If anything having some ex-pornstar claim to have had an affair with him it might have given The Apprentice a ratings boost. He might have welcomed it.

  • wreckinball||

    Enter the thought police. The NDA was for her to shut up. A legal contract that was mean to protect Trump's reputation. I mean not embarrassing his wife and family would be a valid reason. Its really not anyone's business actually because its a private contract between two people paid for by private funds.

    So a legal activity paid for by personal finances can't become illegal just because someone is running for office.

  • Rossami||

    When even the experts who are charged with enforcing a law can't clearly articulate what is and is not illegal, maybe that's a sign that the law is too vague to be workable.

    It's time to abandon the legal fiction that "ignorance of the law is no excuse". If an average person can't figure out what the law means, then we are not notice of what is or is not allowed. That's a violation of the Due Process clause of the Constitution. It's time to start throwing out these laws. Send them back to Congress for a do-over.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    And sunset clauses on all laws.

  • EirkKengaard||

    Good point!

  • TheodoraBurnes||

    I read the news just like it's a show time. We even don't need to go to Broadway to watch performances. But actually, there is not only one place where you can watch a good performance. For example, here is the best show I've ever seen https://thecolorpurpleshow.com/, having see it once you will never forget it.

  • TheodoraBurnes||

    I read the news just like it's a show time. We even don't need to go to Broadway to watch performances. But actually, there is not only one place where you can watch a good performance. For example, here is the best show I've ever seen https://thecolorpurpleshow.com/, having see it once you will never forget it.

  • Hank Phillips||

    The garbled online version of this mutation of Nixon's anti-libertarian law runs into 41 pages. The following page nationalizes some property in Maryland within the context of an entrenched looter kleptocracy. Since the purpose of all election campaign laws since 1971 is to exclude Libertarian Party candidates, no law has been better enforced since its passage. Is there something else to understand here?

  • The Last American Hero||

    Yeah, why are they trying to use it against non-Libertarians?

  • Giant Realistic Flying Tiger||

    Understanding how to write coherently would be a good place for you to start.

  • wreckinball||

    What is Jacob's excuse?

    I mean Reason is a flock of dumb shits with the exception of Stossel.

    "Trevor Potter, who as a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission (FEC) should know, clarified the point in a Washington Post op-ed piece. Trump's reimbursement, Potter explained, "would just make Cohen's payment a loan to the Trump campaign," and "federal law treats a loan to a campaign as a contribution, subject to contribution limits and disclosure requirements."

    We have Alan Deshowitz and the former FEC chairman who disagree. Trump pays someone to shut up with his money. If a third party, his lawyer, handled the case and was reimbursed who cares. It was part of the legal services.

    My lawyer pays my taxes and I reimburse him. Its not a loan. Its accounts receivable.

  • wreckinball||

    What is Jacob's excuse?

    I mean Reason is a flock of dumb shits with the exception of Stossel.

    "Trevor Potter, who as a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission (FEC) should know, clarified the point in a Washington Post op-ed piece. Trump's reimbursement, Potter explained, "would just make Cohen's payment a loan to the Trump campaign," and "federal law treats a loan to a campaign as a contribution, subject to contribution limits and disclosure requirements."

    We have Alan Deshowitz and the former FEC chairman who disagree. Trump pays someone to shut up with his money. If a third party, his lawyer, handled the case and was reimbursed who cares. It was part of the legal services.

    My lawyer pays my taxes and I reimburse him. Its not a loan. Its accounts receivable.

  • EscherEnigma||

    Moral of the story: don't pay blackmail.

  • UnrepentantCurmudgeon||

    More to the point, don't fuck around in the first place.

  • John Galt Jr||

    Bless you.

  • wreckinball||

    Reason, the libertarian Onion.

  • Ben of Houston||

    Ignorance of the law is not normally an excuse. However, in the case of campaign finance law, you could reasonably argue that it is deliberately obfuscated. The idea that lawyers can reasonably argue on both sides of the issue without any dispute of the underlying facts shows that the law is unclear (lawyers always argue on different sides, but this almost always relies on a factual dispute of some small form). You cannot have something be both mandatory and banned simultaneously.

    Enforcing the law in this case is by any reasonable definition, completely arbitrary.

    The ending of this article, on the other hand, is nonsensical. There is no defense for Clinton because there is no reasonable interpretation of the law that would make her actions legal. As a lifelong politician, she was quite familiar with recordkeeping law, which is neither very complex nor difficult to comply with for anyone (the only difficulties are in enacting the recordkeeping, not in interpreting the requirements).

  • EirkKengaard||

    " . . . . campaign finance law is complicated."

    Indeed. Why doesn't the article fully explain it as it [possibly] applies.

  • UnrepentantCurmudgeon||

    Yes, Trump gets the benefit of the "dipshit defense" but Hillary does not.

    Remember, as Secretary of State Hillary went through trainings on classified materials and how they are to be handled. She was even taught what the [c] means on a document. So she really did not have the excuse of ignorance because she had in fact had this stuff explained to her at the highest level. Anyone who wants to accord her the right to assert the "dipshit defense" under these circumstances also has to admit that she was, therefore, simply too damned stupid to sit in the White House. You can't have it both ways.

  • David Nolan||

    But you'll defend Trump's insecure mobile phone. In this case, Trump explicitly refused to stop using an insecure phone. I don't recall Hillary refusing to abandon her server when so advised.

    Left - Right = Zeto

  • HANSENWT||

    FEC Violation and Clinton email server two entirely different things....Clinton email server should not have been brought into this article. There is reasonable evidence that Clinton btw knew that she committed wrongdoing with the server and there is reasonable evidence that the server was set up to circumvent legal requirements (which is conspiracy). I am sure Clinton had more then one classified brief. She is also a lawyer and well aware that deleting 33000 state department records was also obstruction and records violations (both crimes). One could additionally argue that if she was unaware of having classified on her personnel unclassified server, then why did she attempt to delete it (we don't know but that is a cause and reaction pursuant to intent). Add to that that intent is not a stipulation for negligence of classified which was the original case report before correction for unproven reasons. Am I trying to convict her, no....but it should all have been investigated properly and gone to the grand jury and let them decide....but the FBI declined to prosecute which they have the right to do....where Comey messed up is he used the horrifying excuse....he did not have to give specific reasoning at that time....should have just said we investigated and the report from the investigation was that it was inadvisable to pursue further litigation so he honored the report.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online