I’ve thought a little about the sham Michael Cohen plea deal. It is interesting to me that when the prosecutors announced the deal on Tuesday, they highlighted all of the matters to which Cohen pled guilty, except one: the alleged campaign finance violation regarding Stormy Daniels and (supposedly) Trump.
Now there’s a reason they glossed over it. And it might not be obvious if you’re not paying close attention.
Cohen did not plead guilty to paying the porn star (which might have been a contribution, though I don’t think it would have been for reasons I’ll get to in a moment). He pled guilty to “coordinating” that payment, which, in fact, is exactly what he did. Both Cohen and Trump have said previously that Cohen was reimbursed for the payment.
Ignore for the moment that this was extortion by Daniels, of which Trump was the victim: that’s not relevant to the point. The point is two-fold:
There were no contribution limits on Trump. He was allowed to spend as much on his campaign as he wanted. Contribution limits only apply to other people.
It wasn’t a campaign expenditure, either.
How do we know this? Let’s start with legal precedent: the prosecution in the 2012 John Edwards case already tried the same tactic Mueller just pulled and got bounced out of court for it. We don’t have to guess: there’s no violation here.
Why not? Because personal expenditures that also benefit a campaign aren’t campaign expenditures. If you have bad teeth and get cosmetic dentistry—even the reason is to benefit your campaign—legally, that’s still a personal expense. In fact, you’ll go to jail if you try to pay for it out of campaign funds.
But Trump didn’t pay for it with campaign funds. Nor did his campaign pay for it. It wasn’t a campaign expense. And he can pay any amount he wants for non-campaign expenses, and he can also give any amount he wants to his own campaign.
The New York Southern District prosecutors know all of that—and the Edwards precedent—perfectly well, which is why they glossed over this count while announcing all the others. They know that if Cohen hadn’t pled guilty to this bogus charge, he’d have never been convicted of it.
Mueller knows this, too. But he wanted it in the deal anyway, because having absolutely zero evidence of Russian collusion, he desperately needed something to save face and impugn Trump.
So he came up with something we already know from the Edwards case isn’t a crime. And he got Cohen to plead guilty to something that isn’t even a crime for Cohen, much less for Trump. And the way Cohen pled to it actually strengthens the case that Trump followed the law rather than broke it.
The only reason this causes any trouble for Trump at all is that the public doesn’t understand this, and should the Democrats take back the House, they’ll use it as an excuse for impeachment even though they understand it perfectly, too. But then, that’s the point: they’ll impeach him no matter what, should they retake the House. And that impeachment will go precisely nowhere in the Senate.
But never mind that. The bottom line is that if anything, the Cohen plea proves Trump didn’t commit a crime. And that’s a far cry from what you’re hearing on #FakeNews CNN.
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