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Trump's Cluelessness Remains His Best Defense Against Charges That He 'Knowingly and Willfully' Violated Campaign Finance Law

If Trump did not recognize hush payments to his (alleged) former mistresses as illegal campaign contributions, he is not criminally culpable.

White HouseWhite HouseThe New York Times reports that the sentencing memo urging "a substantial prison term" for Michael Cohen, Donald Trump's former lawyer, "effectively accused the president of defrauding voters, questioning the legitimacy of his victory." The paper adds that, while the Justice Department has long taken the position that a sitting president cannot be indicted, federal prosecutors at the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, which filed the memo on Friday, "believe charges could be brought against Mr. Trump if he is not re-elected."

Defrauding voters, of course, is not an actual crime. If it were, our prisons would be oveflowing with politicians. The relevant offenses in this case would be orchestrating illegal campaign contributions in the form of hush money paid to former Playboy model Karen McDougal and porn star Stephanie Clifford (a.k.a. Stormy Daniels), both of whom claim to have had sexual relationships with Trump. And the most important question in assessing Trump's criminal culpability is whether he understood those payments to be illegal campaign contributions. It is quite plausible that he did not.

Cohen admitted arranging a $125,000 "catch and kill" payment to McDougal from The National Enquirer and paying Clifford $130,000 from his own home equity line of credit. He said both payments were made "for the principal purpose of influencing the election," making the first payment an illegal corporate campaign contribution and the second payment an excessive (and unreported) individual contribution (or loan, since Cohen was ultimately reimbursed by Trump).

According to the sentencing memo, Cohen "acted in coordination with and at the direction of" Trump, a.k.a. "Individual-1." In urging a substantial prison sentence for Cohen, who also pleaded guilty to tax evasion, bank fraud, and (in a separate case overseen by special counsel Robert Mueller) lying to Congress, the prosecutors said they hoped a stiff penalty would have the salutary effect of "deterring future candidates, and their 'fixers,' all of whom are sure to be aware of the Court's sentence here, from violating campaign finance laws."

Contra the Times, the memo does not accuse Trump of "defrauding voters" or "question[] the legitimacy of his victory." But it can fairly be read as suggesting that he "knowingly and willfully" participated in violations of the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA), which would expose him to criminal as well as civil penalties. I'm not convinced that's true, because it seems unlikely that Trump knew enough about the ins and outs of FECA to satisfy the mens rea requirement.

Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani's main defense against charging Trump with criminal violations of FECA is that the hush payments "are not campaign contributions," because they were aimed mainly at avoiding personal embarrassment for Trump and his wife rather than, as Cohen says, preventing revelations that would have imperiled his presidential campaign. Giuliani himself has undermined that argument by alluding to the possible political consequences of press interviews with Stormy Daniels in the late stages of the campaign. "Imagine if that came out on October 15, 2016, in the middle of the, you know, last debate with Hillary Clinton," Giuliani said in a Fox News interview last May. "Cohen didn't even ask. Cohen made it go away. He did his job."

That "didn't even ask" part seems highly doubtful. According to Cohen, he kept Trump apprised of both payments. Still, it's likely that Trump had mixed motives, both personal and political, and he could claim, contrary to what Cohen said in his plea agreement last August, that assuring victory in November was not his primary motivation and that in fact the payments would have been made even if he weren't running for president.

That was essentially the defense offered by John Edwards, who was charged with violating FECA by arranging payments to his mistress (and the mother of his daughter) while he was running for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. Edwards' lawyers argued that the payments were aimed at keeping the affair from his wife, who was dying of cancer. In 2012 a jury found Edwards not guilty on one count and failed to reach verdicts on the other five.

Giuliani claims that case vindicates Trump's defense, which is probably reading too much into a mistrial. But the jurors' failure to reach agreement does suggest that proving election offenses like these, which hinge on the defendant's state of mind, is no easy matter. Describing Edwards' prosecution as "a case that had no precedent," the Times noted that "campaign finance law is ever changing and being reinterpreted, with this case falling on one central question: Were the donations for the sole purpose of influencing the campaign or [was that] merely one purpose." Citing election law expert Richard Hasen, the paper said "it is unlikely that the verdict will help politicians better interpret the labyrinth of campaign finance law."

Six years later, campaign finance law is still complicated, and alleged violations can still hinge on debatable interpretations. "At a minimum," former Federal Election Commission Chairman Brad Smith wrote in a Reason essay after Cohen's guilty plea, "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." Smith noted that spending "to fulfill a commitment, obligation or expense of any person that would exist irrespective of the candidate's campaign" counts as "personal use," even if it is politically beneficial.

The sentencing memo says Cohen, as "a licensed attorney with significant political experience and a history of campaign donations," was "well-aware of the election laws." He "knew exactly where the line was, and he chose deliberately and repeatedly to cross it." Can the same be said of Trump?

There is reason to doubt it, beginning with Trump's notorious lack of interest in legal niceties. After Cohen pleaded guilty, Trump insisted in an interview with Fox News that "those two counts [related to the hush payments] aren't even a crime." He emphasized that he reimbursed Cohen with his own money, as opposed to campaign funds, which "could be a little dicey." Trump's critics mocked his ignorance of FECA's requirements. "What Trump doesn't know about campaign finance law is, um, a whole lot," wrote CNN political correspondent Chris Cillizza.

Smith argued that Trump, who was allowed to spend as much of his own money on the campaign as he chose, could have paid Clifford directly and reported the transaction as an expenditure under the uninformative heading of "legal services." If so, Trump's failure to take that approach counts as further evidence that he did not have a very firm grasp of FECA. It is hard to "knowingly and willfully" violate a law you don't understand.

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  • Don't look at me!||

    So are we going to quit talking about it then?

  • wootendw||

    ' That "didn't even ask" part seems highly doubtful. According to Cohen, he kept Trump apprised of both payments.'

    What Cohen says should be taken with a grain of salt. If Trump tells his lawyer to take care of a problem, he has the right to assume that Cohen will do what's legal. That's a lawyer's job with a client like Trump - make sure what he does falls within the law. Lawyers are expected to follow the law.

  • E Blackadder||

    This.

    As an attorney, I am nauseated that a member of the bar is claiming that he broke the law because his client told him to. What is more, the client cannot direct a lawyer to "break the law" unless the lawyer advises the client that the course of action being taken is illegal. If Trump asked Cohen to buy the silence of these two women, and Cohen simply devised the plan for doing that without advising Trump that Cohen's recommended course of action was illegal, Trump is guilty of nothing more than making a very bad choice of a lawyer.

  • Troglodyte Rex||

    Meh. What does any of this have to do with "collusion"?

  • a ab abc abcd abcde abcdef ahf||

    A. They are "rushin'" to judgement, although calling two years a rush might require hiring a snail or two.

    B. Stormy has some Russian ancestry somewhere.

  • buybuydandavis||

    I bet Stormy has "colluded" with a lot of Russians.

  • retiredfire||

    Fuck off, Hihn!
    As usual, you don't know what you are talking about.

  • Tony||

    Yeah he doesn't know that the only acceptable opinion here at the foremost libertarian publication is that Republicans are always right.

  • Heraclitus||

    Nothing. But I see you are a reader of Trump's Twitter feed.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Is campaign finance law considered straightforward enough that every politician should understand it without the need to consult counsel? Is it definitely not vaguely written and open to interpretation?

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    instead of de-escalating the situation, police "made it way worse."

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    well that was interesting.

    What I meant to say was the politicians don't want to step in their own bear trap, so it's probably got lots of ambiguities built in.

  • Alsø alsø wik||

    what could possibly be more clear cut than "for purposes of influencing an election"?

  • retiredfire||

    Unless you can prove that that was Trump's intention and there could be no other plausible explanation, like he didn't want to embarrass his family, then there was no crime.
    As stated by Alan Dershowitz - no fan of Trump.

  • JesseAz||

    Everything a politician does is to influence an election, see Warren's DNA test. That does not mean this is illegal dummy. He used personal funds and had probably done this many times over the decades. This isn't illegal in any way shape or form.

    We literally just had a scandal of politicians using government funds and NDAs to hide harassment claims, that was to influence elections too. Yet nobody is clamoring for their felony convictions.

    You're just a dishonest and ignorant piece of shit.

  • TrickyVic (old school)||

    How quickly we forget that congress had a secret slush fund for sex harassment claims. They have been paying women to keep quite longer than Trump. They paid them off so it wouldn't sink their re-election. If paying someone to keep quite is a crime, there's a lot more people in DC than Trump that should be prosecuted.

  • edrebber||

    Cohen pleaded guilty to tax evasion, bank fraud, and lying to Congress and is facing decades in prison. It's quite obvious that he plead guilty to these campaign finance charges so he would get a favorable sentencing recommendation for the other more serious charges.

  • John Rohan||

    what could possibly be more clear cut than "for purposes of influencing an election"?

    Was that sarcasm? That's about the most vague wording you possibly can use. In that case, even getting a car wash would be reportable for purposes of influencing an election.

  • Rich||

    IIRC, "cluelessness" worked wonders for Hillary.

    Once again, "no reasonable prosecutor ...."

  • Brett Bellmore||

    The reason they ridiculed the idea, was that the statute in question imposed strict liability, criminal intent was irrelevant.

  • buybuydandavis||

    Well reasoned retort!

    John Galt JR - Sock = Hihn

  • buybuydandavis||

    Ellis Wyatt - Sock = Hihn

    Ellis Sock needs more bold.

  • JesseAz||

    We get it statists love political abuse of office hihn. Go to Cuba, it would work for you.

  • ravenshrike||

    Also the fact that there were multiple case sinking fuckups in the investigation and immunity handed out for zero reason, but hey, you be you.

  • Sevo||

    "The New York Times reports that the sentencing memo urging "a substantial prison term" for Michael Cohen, Donald Trump's former lawyer, "effectively accused the president of defrauding voters, questioning the legitimacy of his victory." "

    This is total and complete bullshit unless Pelosi's payments to her plastic surgeon make her equally in violation of campaign finance law.

  • BYODB||

    Not only that, but one might ask what this means for Obama since his book was sold in Russia! While in office, even! EMOLUMENTS CLAUSE!

    This is honestly how retarded most people are at this point. They have no fucking clue what they're barking about, but they know the louder they bark the more serious they must appear!

  • JesseAz||

    Even worse the state department bought thousands of Obama's book to put in embassies. Literal direct use of government funds for Obama's enrichment.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    State Dept. spends $70K on Obama books

    You can argue about whether it should have happened, but there's no question at all that it DID happen.

  • JesseAz||

    Hihn isn't intelligent nor informed.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    Doesn't say they were sold at a loss, either. Your serve.

  • Teddy Pump||

    Forget his book!!!..In 2008 & 2012, Obummy's campaign turned off the CVV requirement on his donation website & millions in foreign donations, mostly from China poured in & the FRC gave him a slap on the wrist!!

    To go after Trump for this is pathetic!!!

  • JesseAz||

    Th he 2008 Obama campaign paid one of the biggest election violation fines in history retard.

  • retiredfire||

    You're saying they suspended all sales, once got into office?
    Fuck off, Hihn!

  • TrickyVic (old school)||

    ""1) The book was before he was elected."'

    So was Trump's payments.

  • retiredfire||

    "Effectively accusing" = NYT fevered desire to see Trump brought up on any charges.

  • buybuydandavis||

    "effectively accused the president of defrauding voters"

    What statute is that?

  • BYODB||

    We literally all knew that when Democrats got a knife's edge in the House they were going to use it to try and impeach Trump.


    I'm not sure if it will destroy them as badly as impeaching Clinton destroyed Republicans, but boy howdy they were just given some rope and they are in one hell of a hurry to loop it around their own necks.


    Watching the party (and media) that excused Clinton for his sexual shenanigans try and impeach Trump for pretty much the same thing is just too laughable. I almost can't wait for the impeachment hearings since it should be enjoyable to watch the Democrats shill for puritanism.


    And lets be super clear. These 'campaign contribution' charges are laughable. It's the equivalent of Democrats saying Trump should be impeached over speeding tickets. Seriously, point me to a President who hasn't broken campaign finance laws and I'll point you to a President that the media didn't take a very close look at.


    The fact Trump was the richest President ever to take office apparently means nothing, but it bears repeating.

  • Fancylad||

    The Democrats have to impeach Trump no matter what for several reasons:

    1. First, they have to even the score for Clinton. This has been eating their insides for over twenty years. The temptation is to big to resist.

    2. They pathologically need to show Trump cheated to win the election. The Russia-collusion narrative is being exposed as bullshit. So Trump's payoffs to two mistresses lock in their narrative that Trump won by cheating.

    3. Third, the overclass and their base demand it and will punish them if they don't.

    4. The best campaign advertisement for the Democrats in 2020 will be lengthy House Judiciary Committee hearings coverage by DNC party organs CNN, MSNBC, the New York Times and Washington Post.

  • buybuydandavis||

    Mainly it's a smoke screen so they can pretend that Trump's prosecution of their ocean of crime in the Obama Administration is about politics and not law.

  • buybuydandavis||

    I love the narration of his emotional expressions

  • Teddy Pump||

    Clinton lied UNDER OATH....What is was about is meaningless...He should've been removed from office!

  • buybuydandavis||

    "It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is"

  • Juice||

    If Trump did not recognize hush payments to his (alleged) former mistresses as illegal campaign contributions, he is not criminally culpable.

    Trump can breathe easy because the Justice Department is overflowing with reasonable prosecutors.

  • Juice||

    he did not have a very firm grasp of FECA

    But he was still able to throw it.

  • IceTrey||

    So they are sending Cohen to prison for lying but they want what he says about the payments to be taken as gospel truth. Sounds about right.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Trump is a clueless buffoon and is simultaneously the world's foremost expert and reigning champion at eleventy dimensional chess.

  • retiredfire||

    Fuck off, Hihn.
    He never said that.

  • mpercy||

    Mr. President, I rise today to talk about America's debt problem.

    The fact that we are here today to debate raising America's debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. Government can't pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government's reckless fiscal policies.

    Over the past 5 years, our federal debt has increased by $3.5 trillion to $8.6 trillion. That is "trillion" with a "T." That is money that we have borrowed from the Social Security trust fund, borrowed from China and Japan, borrowed from American taxpayers. And over the next 5 years, between now and 2011, the President's budget will increase the debt by almost another $3.5 trillion.

    Increasing America's debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that "the buck stops here." Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.

    I therefore intend to oppose the effort to increase America's debt limit.

  • mpercy||

    ----

    That was Senator Obama, when he became President and racked up $9.3T of debt, he had changed his mind, saying famously

    "I think that it's important to understand the vantage point of a senator versus the vantage point of a president. When you're a senator, traditionally what's happened is, this is always a lousy vote. Nobody likes to be tagged as having increased the debt limit — for the United States by a trillion dollars. As president, you start realizing, you know what, we, we can't play around with this stuff. This is the full faith and credit of the United States. And so that was just an example of a new senator making what is a political vote as opposed to doing what was important for the country. And I'm the first one to acknowledge it."

    Perhaps Trump has had a similar viewpoint shift from what he said as a candidate? If Obama gets a pass for his politicking against debt as a Senator but then freely spending the country into $9+T in more debt, perhaps you could allow Trump the same benefit of the doubt.

    Neither of them should have allowed Congress to rack up this kind of debt.

  • mpercy||

    Crap, I just realized who I was responding to. Nevermind.

  • TrickyVic (old school)||

    LOL

  • Bender B. Rodriguez||

    I think this is good precedent. If we made it law that every president, on day one of his/her service, was issued a mandatory special prosecutor to look into their entire history and make public whatever they could find to charge them with, we'd get far fewer slimy sunsabitches running for the job.

    Either that, or we'd get the most ruthless and effective crooks who could hide the bodies where NO ONE would ever find them.

  • BYODB||

    And I'm sure you won't end up with a bunch of very rich special prosecutors. Nope, definitely not that.

    I think what you're looking for is an authoritarian since you've just installed an unchecked, unelected bureaucrat to sign off on who becomes President. I see no downsides!

  • Juice||

    They wouldn't have to sign off. They would just harass them endlessly until the president left office, paid them off, or bumped them off.

  • Juice||

    Yes, I would like to see this become tradition as well, but like you say, but if someone like Hillary were president, the special prosecutor would either be her best buddy or meet with a very unfortunate case of terminal depression.

  • Teddy Pump||

    You say:

    "Either that, or we'd get the most ruthless and effective crooks who could hide the bodies where NO ONE would ever find them."

    You almost got that with HildaBeast!

  • Brett Bellmore||

    Hey, John! Turns out the FBI themselves fed Papadopoulos that rumor, by way of one of their own moles, Joseph Mifsud. Handed him the rumor, and then nailed him for passing it on.

  • retiredfire||

    Christ Hihn! You REALLY don't know what you are talking about, do you?

  • buybuydandavis||

    "mandatory special prosecutor"

    Rule by the Deep State.

  • buybuydandavis||

    Deep State Witch Hunt = Rule of Law

    "Libertarian Moment"

  • Mickey Rat||

    If anything, this speaks to the absurdities of campaign finance laws.

    Is there any hand wringing about the NY AG's office threatening to prosecute the President?

  • retiredfire||

    No crimes, dumb shit!

  • Mickey Rat||

    Is there a coherent thought behind that yelling?

  • Echospinner||

    I tried using the I didn't know defense with the local tax agency.

    They were not impressed.

  • mlwjr||

    Did they throw you in jail or fine you?

  • Echospinner||

    I paid them. There were fines. They were threatening legal action whatever that means.

    Actually I am still paying it in monthly installments. At least they let me do that without additional interest or penalties.

  • Ben_||

    That's what happened when Obama broke campaign finance laws. He paid a fine. That's almost always what happens for campaign finance laws.

    Millions of Americans will soon learn whether we we have a justice system or an arbitrary attack mechanism to be wielded against whomever the left and the press is mad at.

  • a ab abc abcd abcde abcdef ahf||

    Defrauding voters, of course, is not an actual crime.

    In my libertopia, politicians are elected by contract, not name, and violating that contract would be as liable to lawsuit as any other contract. Of course, most contracts would be really mealy-mouthed, possibly with the exceptions of following their party platform, but that's ok too; it would put them on record as not promising anything, and campaign speeches would be as much a part of their contract as any advertising by any company.

  • Seamus||

    So the allegation is that Trump's payoff to Stormy Daniels was an illegal campaign expenditure. Isn't it patently obvious that if his campaign had made the payoff, Mueller would now be preparing an indictment (or a referral to the House Judiciary Committee for use in impeachment proceedings) accusing him of having diverted campaign funds for personal purposes?

  • Mickey Rat||

    The theory seems to be that it counts as campaign funding because Cohen initially paid for it out of his own money but was paid back as a loan of sorts If Trump had had a pool of his own money that Cohen could direct as needed, it would not be a campaign finance issue, as a person has unlimited legal ability to finance his own campaign.

    Again, this seems to be getting overly complicated and arcane.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    It was only either if it was something he wouldn't have done if he hadn't been running for office. Which is clearly not the case.

  • retiredfire||

    I call your NeverTrump Judge Nap and raise you a HiLIARy voter, Alan Dershowitz, who says, even if it was to further his campaign, which is debatable, he could use his own money, without committing a crime.
    Fuck off, Hihn!

  • TrickyVic (old school)||

    Speaking of Dershowitz, Trump should heed the advice Dershowtiz gave to Bill Clinton.

    Keep your mouth shut.

  • wreckinball||

    That's because making hush payments is not an illegal campaign contribution.

  • EZepp||

    So, if you're a "public figure" you can be blackmailed with impunity, and if you're a "public figure" running for political office paying off your blackmailer is a campaign finance violation? Got it!

  • Jima||

    Yeah,yeah, Trump's clueless...blah, blah. Have any of you guys actually looked at a few photos of Karen McDougal? Trump may be clueless, but not about everything...She is pretty stunning. I don't blame him a bit.

  • retiredfire||

    To hear all you commies talk about morality is either sickening or laughable.
    You are responsible for the murder of literally millions of people, and you want to talk about morality.
    Fuck off, Hihn!

  • Tony||

    It's even worse. He'd think it was morally repugnant to a physically incapacitating degree if only the guy had a (D) after his name instead of an (R).

  • mr siegel||

    So, ignorance of the law IS an excuse. I'll carry a copy of this legal opinion with me next time.

  • MarkJ-||

    @mr siegel: If that flies then we really do not have a legal system.

  • Headache||

    New York Times, CNN, and apparently Reason's reporting style.

    CBS News reports "Mueller, the head of the Gestapo secret police and the highest-ranking Nazi never to have been captured"

    Mueller

  • JesseAz||

    His best defense is that it's not illegal to use money to pay off slots you sleep with. What the fuck is wrong with reason. They are literally advocating for cute readings of law to indict people they don't like.

  • retiredfire||

    At least one of the laws HiLIARy violated didn't require a criminal, or any other kind of intent, because once national security is breached, it doesn't matter how it happens. That's why HiLIARy and every other government agent, who gets a security clearance, is instructed that any violation, intentional, or not is illegal.
    We don't hear, anymore, about the training she received on the subject, do we?
    I wonder why the genius, Comey, who created the criminal intent element, in defiance of the written law, didn't mention that his favored candidate was instructed on the law and violated it anyway.
    And it is others, generally those who want Trump gone, who say he needed to have criminal intent. That's not an argument made by Trump or his supporters.
    HE COMMITTED NO CRIME!.

  • JesseAz||

    Hihn. You've continued proving how fucking ignorant you are in thread after thread including this one. I believe the co senses is to fuck off.

  • Ben_||

    "I trusted my lawyer to help make sure what I was doing was legal" is a pretty easy defense.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    It is, in fact, literally your lawyer's job to advise you on how to do things legally. Unless they've got a tape of Trump telling Cohen, "I don't care if it's illegal, do it anyway." it's all on Cohen.

    In fact, it isn't even clear that anything illegal happened. Pleading guilty to something doesn't establish that it's a crime. It just establishes that a prosecutor has leverage over you.

  • retiredfire||

    Isn't that typical of the left?
    Let's force this guy, with a false promise of leniency - something, that if done by anyone but a "prosecutor" would be witness tampering - to plead guilty to something that might be a crime and use that to implicate someone, we are hell-bent on taking down, with being a party to that "crime", whether it was, or wasn't.
    Now, Cohen may be guilty of fraud in that he improperly billed the reimbursement requests, as other than the hush-money that it was, but I'll bet, within the scum-bag lawyer profession, those kinds of billings are routine.

  • mpercy||

    I don't think these were Trump's first hush settlements, so it seems plausible that he didn't necessarily do it as a campaign deal at all but rather as a personal issue. If it was something he's done before, that's actually evidence that it was not a campaign expense at all, but just an everyday part of being a billionaire who likes the ladies.

  • mpercy||

    Oh, I see he-who-shall-not-be-named has show up in one of his sock puppets and ruined the thread.

  • buybuydandavis||

    "And the most important question in assessing Trump's criminal culpability is whether he understood those payments to be illegal campaign contributions. It is quite plausible that he did not."

    The first question is to consider is whether these charges are absurd. And they are.
    Trump paying off floozies to keep them quiet is not Trump making a campaign contribution to himself. It is simply another Big Lie to suggest otherwise.

    I increasingly believe the Right will have to choose whether to submit to the Rule of the Left, or take power themselves. You can't have self government where the Justice Department feels free to just make shit up everyday. This rampant Deep State judicial authoritarianism striking at the President is simply a coup. The Left feels no constraints. Government apparatchiks will prosecute anyone who thwarts their power, and no doubt they'll find similarly lawless judges to provide convictions.

    The Right can submit or lock them up. In the end, those are the options.

  • Tony||

    The Left is in charge of the justice department?

    How many more excuses are you gonna make for Trump before you realize you're being incredibly ridiculous?

  • buybuydandavis||

    The Left is the party of the Deep State.

    Government of the government, by the government, and for the government.

    Progressivism is rule by the Deep State.

  • buybuydandavis||

    One more well reasoned retort!

  • Tony||

    Well thank god.

  • Heraclitus||

    If this were the only scandal it would blow over. Trump gets a pass because when you are wealthy you can pay people to do all kinds of things with a wink and a nod and get off with plausible deniability. That's why loyalty is so important to him. But it's not the only scandal and Cohen knows a lot more than about paying off mistresses. That's why this is a big story. Context always matters.

    So let's not get distracted by legalities. The bottom line is that Trump is a moral degenerate who sleeps with porn actresses while married and newly fathered. Then he pays them off. If his supporters want to whine about how this is technically not illegal then go for it. The rest of us are laughing our a$Ns off at how stupid you all are for defending this troglodyte. Go ahead and argue in the weeds of this one little scandal. Meanwhile, the adults are moving on to the other dozen scandals he is immersed in and shining a light on what a pathetic scam artist we have for a president. If you want to keep defending him it's your conscious you have to live with. No one is forcing you to defend him.

  • buybuydandavis||

    " If his supporters want to whine about how this is technically not illegal then go for it. "

    Libertarian Moment

  • Lester224||

    If you want to defend Trump by saying the hush money was not meant to impact the campaign or influence voters and was only meant to spare his wife's feelings, please feel free to do so. It will make you sound stupid.

    The argument that Trump is not legally culpable for a campaign finance violation because he didn't understand the law concerning that is more believable.

  • buybuydandavis||

    1) You can spend infinite money on your own campaign.
    2) The legal standard is that an expense *by someone other than the candidate* is considered a contribution only if there are *no* other purposes served by the expense.

  • buybuydandavis||

    "I just got back on my meds, so I took *double*! Woohoo!"

  • TLBD||

    Reason, I have never asked this before, but can you please ban Hihn.

    Guy shits all over the comment threads making them impossible to read.

  • buybuydandavis||

    They probably like it better that way.

    They'd probably prefer to do the Lefty and just shut down the peasants entirely, but it wouldn't look so Free Mindish.

    Letting Hihn drive commenters away is the next best thing.

    Maybe Hihn has been a Nick sock puppet all along. Socks within socks.

  • Kazinski||

    Since Stormy has now been ordered by the judge to pay Trump $293,000 is that a campaign contribution? And is it embezzlement if Trump keeps it?

    Or is it an emolument?

  • jerryg1018||

    "f Trump did not recognize hush payments to his (alleged) former mistresses as illegal campaign contributions, he is not criminally culpable."

    Hmmm, when did the doctrine of "Ignorance of the law is no excuse" change?

    Now I'll state that out of pocket payments of hush money for decades old allegations are not illegal. Unable to hang collusion charges on President Trump prosecutors are scrapping the underside of the bottom of the barrel. Next i'll remind everyone that historically campaign finance violations like former President Obama's $5 million dollar violation are settled with a fine and not prison time.

  • Stephen Lathrop||

    Maybe Mueller won't charge Trump (or report him, or whatever) for the hush money stuff. Federal prosecutors have a reputation for not making charges they can't prove. Mueller is an above-average federal prosecutor. So if the Trump supporters here have a point, then maybe Trump doesn't share Cohen's fate.

    On the other hand, if Mueller does go after Trump over hush money, my bet will be on Mueller having Trump dead to rights on whatever specifics he sets out to prove.

    Leaving that aside, I'm guessing at least the following other criminal conduct is likely to get charged (or otherwise attributed) to Trump before this is over:

    1. Unregistered agent of a foreign power.

    2. Emoluments violations, or accepting a bribe.

    3. Money laundering.

    4. Tax evasion.

    5. Some kind of conspiracy to help foreigners violate U.S. election laws.

    Interested to hear from Trump supporters which of those they think are unlikely. Especially interested to discover if anyone thinks all of that is out of the question, and Trump is going to come out okay.

  • Mark P||

    This is old news, and will soon be forgotten again as it was forgotten before. Hush payments are legal, and unlike the John Edwards case, the money was not withdrawn from campaign funds. Taxpayers unwittingly have paid over 30 million dollars in hush money to protect congressmen, even alleged pedophiles, from a slush fund. If this is not an issue, why would hush money paid from Trump's own pocket be an issue? We hire lawyers because they know the law better than us, so we would expect them to follow the law--why else would we hire them? It is absurd to expect clients to research laws to make sure their lawyers are acting properly.

  • Mark P||

    Perjury is a crime and Cohen is a liar. If I hire a lawyer, I would hope that he doesn't blame me for his legal mistakes: he is the expert in law, not me.

  • Mark P||

    Hush payments are legal because in a hush payment contract, no one is expected to do anything illegal. If someone pays money to an assassin to kill someone else, that is obviously illegal; however, keeping quiet about an affair is legal, and paying money to keep quiet about an affair is also legal (unless one person is underage). In fact, Stormy Daniels breached the contract by not keeping quiet, which is why she was recently forced to pay Trump's legal expenses for her frivolous lawsuit.

  • Mark P||

    Are you saying that the 30 million dollars in hush payments paid from a slush fund to protect congressmen is illegal? Then why is nothing being done about that?

  • Mark P||

    The slush fund also paid damages not only to women, but also to underage children, and therefore the money was used to cover up the crime of pedophilia.

  • Mark P||

    Non-disclosure agreements are only for consenting adults; they are never made for cases of pedophilia because criminals do not want to create a paper trail. The intellectual heroes of the left are Foucault and Derrida, who advocated the legalization of pedophilia in France. Foucault in particular was a disgusting human being who was both a sadist and a pedophile and unfortunately influenced many of the top political figures in the USA, who need slush funds to cover up their crimes. Monkey see, Monkey do.

  • edrebber||

    No reasonable person would conclude that Cohen was making the payments on his own behalf. He was acting as Trump's legal representative with the understanding that his expenses would be reimbursed. Even the prosecution admits that Cohen is an expert in campaign finance law. Cohen pleaded guilty to tax evasion, bank fraud, and lying to Congress. Cohen pleads guilty to these less serious campaign finance charges to get a more favorable sentence for these other more serious charges.

  • Mark P||

    It is incredible that so many people are enraged over an alleged campaign violation when campaign violations are common, and they are resolved with a slap on the wrist (e.g. the campaign violations of John Edwards and Barack Obama). As a libertarian, I think all campaign finance laws are stupid and should be abolished. Therefore, I regard breaking campaign finance laws like Rosa Parks sitting in the front of the bus. Trump should be able to pay hush money to Stormy Daniels and not report it--and if there is anything illegal about that, this is no longer than land of the free.

  • Mark P||

    Stormy Daniels was not forced to sign the non-disclosure agreement; and there is nothing fraudulent about keeping certain information private. In fact, the information become public anyway--and it affected Trump's relationship with Melania more than it affected the election. We know that political leaders have affairs (JFK, Bill Clinton etc), so what do you want me to do when I realize that this is still happening? Yawn?

  • Mark P||

    Thankfully I am not a lawyer; I did think about obtaining a law degree, but I didn't want to be corrupt like the Clintons. However, I am sure that lying is NOT a crime (unless done under oath); if it were a crime, we would put all politicians in jail (actually not a bad idea, since most of them are corrupt, and become rich from lobbyists in exchange for their votes). If I had signed a hush agreement, I would also lie about it in order to protect my privacy. Telling the truth in this instance would defeat the purpose of the hush agreement--and as I said before, lying is not illegal. In fact, lying is legitimate in order to defend your privacy from nosy people who have no right to your secrets.

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