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Tag Archives: Michael Cohen

Cohen Accidentally Cleared Trump of Campaign Finance Charges

In his testimony to the House, former attorney to President Trump Michael Cohen probably inadvertently cleared Trump of one of the “criminal” allegations against him with respect to his payoff of Stormy Daniels:

The idea is that Trump violated campaign finance laws because the payment was illegal because was effectively an unreported campaign donation.

But Cohen made quite clear that the donation was at least arguably done not to advance Trump’s campaign by keeping the affair quiet, but to keep the affair from the first lady.

As writer Marc Thiessen notes:

Well, if Trump didn’t care about winning, that undermines the case that the payments were a campaign finance violation. Indeed, Cohen offered evidence that Trump’s motivation was in fact keeping his affair from his wife. “He asked me to pay off an adult film star with whom he had an affair, and to lie to his wife about it,” Cohen said. “Lying to the first lady is one of my biggest regrets. . . . She did not deserve that.” Paying hush money because he did not want his wife to find out he was having an affair with a porn star is sleazy, but it is not a crime.

Thiessen adds:

Cohen also cleared Trump of the charge that he had directed Cohen to lie to Congress about the Moscow Trump Tower project. Cohen declared that “I lied to Congress” and Trump “did not directly tell me to lie.” Cohen said he assumed Trump wanted him to lie, so he did what he thought Trump wanted. Sorry, that’s not evidence of a crime.

Cohen’s testimony gave Democrats lots of excuses to set out to sea for new fishing expeditions, now that the whole Russia collusion thing is falling apart. But Cohen did not do much direct damage Trump at all.

Trump May Have Colluded With the Russians – About Building a Hotel!

There’s a lot of excitement in the press about the Michael Cohen plea deal, but it should be made clear that there is no suggestion at this point that President Trump is in any legal jeopardy, though he may have lied to the American people when he suggested he had avoided business dealings with the Russians.

Unfortunately, not the first fib by the First Fibber.

Cohen, Trump’s former attorney, is cooperating with special prosecutor Mueller and pleaded guilty to lying about his contacts with the Russians about building a hotel in Moscow.

And apparently, he was keeping then-candidate Donald Trump informed the whole time. Because Trump had been trying for two decades to build the damned thing.

It’s not a good idea for a presidential candidate to be dealing with a foreign power, particularly an adversary, since it could affect his policies and approach to the other country.

But building hotels is not illegal.

Why Trump’s President is NOT in Danger. Not Yet, Anyway

From a piece I have running today on the NBC News website:

Last week was widely held to be the darkest of President Donald Trump’s presidency. His longtime former attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to a campaign finance violation — paying off Trump mistresses in what amounted to an illegal campaign contribution — and indicated Trump put him up to it. It was, some said, the beginning of the end.

Well, the end may come. But this is not the beginning of it. Trump is not going to be forced out of office because of infidelity (which he has denied). Congress has been down that road before — and it led nowhere.

Trump’s voters are not going to abandon him over this issue, just as President Bill Clinton’s didn’t when he faced impeachment in 1998. Given that Congress decides on impeachment and it is essentially a political act, Congress will respond to the demands of voters — enough of them, anyway — and leave Trump in the Oval Office.

Read the rest of the article here. I hope you have a chance to take a look!

Politico: Legal Experts Say Cohen’s Admission Doesn’t Mean Trump is Guilty

Yes, Politico. Personally, I find Politico a little less biased than some of the other liberal mainstream outlets. And I worked with the reporter on this story, Josh Gerstein, at the White House for several years. Unlike some of my colleagues there, I never had any idea what his political leanings were.

Anyway, Gerstein has written a brave story given the current climate, reporting – yeah, actually reporting – that attorneys say Trump would have to have known that the payments to his alleged mistresses violated campaign law.

I’m nearly certain Trump on his own would not have known. And I’m willing to bet Cohen, who was tasked with handling Trump’s personal garbage and not campagin stuff, didn’t know either. And if he did know, there’s probably no proof that he informed Trump, if that’s what he did, which I kind of doubt he would.

Anyway, as I’ve mentioned, if it even occurred to Cohen that the payments might be illegal, he may well have determined they were not, given that even a former FEC chair wrote today that they probably were not campaign expenses.

From the Politico piece:

Cohen’s admission that he violated campaign finance law while acting at Trump’s direction is far from rock-solid proof that the president is also guilty, even if Cohen is being entirely truthful, these lawyers said.

“The fact Cohen did something illegal doesn’t mean Trump did anything illegal,” said Jan Baran, a longtime Republican campaign finance lawyer . . .

A very high legal standard that is applied in criminal cases involving alleged campaign finance violations means Trump might not be guilty even if his lawyer is.

“Under the law, it’s quite easy for two people involved in the same act to have different criminal consequences,” said Andy Grewal, a University of Iowa law professor.

That distinction is particularly critical in campaign finance cases because the law limits criminal prosecutions on those charges to instances where someone “knowingly and willfully” defied legal requirements.

As a lawyer, Cohen could be assumed to have some familiarity with federal election law. Prosecutors may well have proof in emails or other documents that he regularly discussed compliance with such statutes.

Proving that Trump knew at the time that the payouts were intended to influence the presidential race, and that he knew they were illegal, could be much harder. Perhaps such records exist, or maybe Cohen is prepared to say that he told Trump the way they were handling it was illegal, but the lawyer never said that in court on Tuesday.

“In order to prove criminal intent, you have to point to evidence that the actors knew or had reason to know what they were doing was illegal,” said Baran, the GOP campaign finance lawyer.

It doesn’t matter, of course, if Democrats win the House. They will use this to impeach him. The party is already being run my Maxine Waters and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

But it is important if Republicans take the House, because they will have to justify not proceeding with impeachment. So far, there are no grounds for it. It’s unlikely Trump committed a crime here, and even if he did, a campaign finance violation hardly constitutes a “high crime and misdemeanor.”

Former FEC Chair Indicates Hush Money to Mistresses is Not Campaign Spending

Former Federal Election Commission Chairman Bradley Smith indicates in a Washington Post op-ed this morning – which, surprise, suprise, has already fallen off the front page – that Michael Cohen’s payments to President Trump’s alleged former mistresses were not campaign expenses under the law. Smith cites the same statute I did in a piece Tuesday,… Continue Reading

Trump Suggests He Did Not Direct Cohen to Make Payments

President Trump said Wednesday in an interview with Fox News that he knew “later on” about hush money payments made by his former attorney Michael Cohen to women accusing Trump of extramarital sex, but he did not say when he found out about the payments, at least in the clip provided by Fox News. Ainsley… Continue Reading

Why Neither Cohen – Nor Trump – May Be Guilty of Campaign Finance Violations

If you look at the actual campaign finance laws, it appears that Michael Cohen – and therefore President Trump, who is already being convicted in the press as his co-conspirator – is not necessarily guilty of violating those laws. First of all, I want to credit Mark Levin for some of the ideas in this… Continue Reading

Former Trump Attorney Michael Cohen Strikes Plea Deal

According to Fox News: Michael Cohen, President Trump’s longtime personal attorney, admitted Tuesday to violating federal campaign finance laws by arranging hush money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal “at the direction” of then-candidate Trump. As part of a plea deal, Cohen admitted that the payments were coordinated… Continue Reading