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August 21, 2018

Former Trump Lawyer Michael Cohen Pleads Guilty to Campaign Finance Violations;
Claims He Paid Off Mistresses at Trump's "Direction" with "Purpose of Influencing Election"

Strange way to describe what would be seen in other contexts as "paying off a potential or actual blackmailer."

US President Donald Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen has pleaded guilty in a Manhattan court to violating campaign finance laws.

He said he did so at the direction of "the candidate" and that he acted for the "purpose of influencing election".

Mr Cohen's admission was related to hush money paid to Mr Trump's alleged mistresses.

The 51-year-old admitted eight counts, including tax and bank fraud in a plea deal with prosecutors.

In the court on Tuesday he said that he had been directed by "a candidate for federal office" to break federal election laws.

In other news, Hillary Clinton deliberately concealed the purpose of her Fusion GPS payments as run-of-the-mill "legal services" payments to Perkins-Coie and hardly a word about that has been mentioned in the media, let alone by any federal prosecutor or DOJ staffer.

Apparently some violations of FEC laws are good and just, so long as you're a Democrat; then no one can say what your "intent" is.

Speaking of intent, that's pretty important here. The reason Cohen claimed Trump did this with the "purpose of influencing the election" is 1, because that's what prosecutors wanted him to say for his deal and 2, candidates do not have to disclose non-campaign expenditures for everything. They don't have to disclose that they spent money to see a Broadway show, for example.

Even if they were photographed there and that, somehow, wound up making the news and advancing their campaign.

So this payment is only of any legal consequence if it was made with the primary intent of influencing the election.

And not, say, avoiding embarrassment and marital strife.

In Trump's case, he can say, and probably will say, "I didn't make that payment to advance my campaign, I made it because I felt that these women would try to cash in and talk about this, which would harm my relationship with my wife."

Which, obviously, it would. In fact, the media has been making just this case, by breathlessly reporting that Melania wasn't staying at the White House and was deliberately avoiding appearing in public because she was upset by the betrayal.

So: How do you establish his intent was actually to "influence the election" and not just "avoid a strain on my marriage"? One can say that both are in play, but you'd have to prove he had the primary intent of doing one rather than the other.

Because there's no law against paying hush-money to someone who might want to damage your reputation.

Now, maybe Cohen has tapes of Trump specifically tying this to his election campaign. But maybe we just have to take his word for it.

And again, if this is now a Very Serious Offence: It's been known for a year that Hillary Clinton deliberately hid the purpose of her payments to Perkins Coie as "legal services" when in fact a big chunk of that money went for oppo research.

Rather than simply omitting mention of them, she filed a deliberately false report for the purpose of disguising the nature of the payment.

Why is Trump required to disclose the purpose of every nickel he spent in 2016 while Hillary Clinton is permitted to straight-up file false reports with the FEC without any criminal investigation whatsoever?

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posted by Ace of Spades at 05:55 PM

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