While the left is salivating over the thought of “destroying” President Trump over “campaign finance laws,” experts are warning, “not so fast.”
Not only do most campaigns break campaign finance laws, but one of the biggest violators is none other than Hillary Clinton.
Mark Penn, the former pollster for both Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, has penned an op-ed in The Hill Wednesday in which he argues that Michael Cohen’s guilty plea shows the double standard that prosecutors have applied unfairly to Donald Trump.
Penn argues that while what Trump is alleged to have done — paying Stormy Daniels for a non-disclosure agreement she had sought for five years prior to the election — was legal, Hillary Clinton failed to report campaign expenditures that led to the Steele dossier.
If anyone broke campaign finance law, Penn argues, it was Clinton, not Trump — but prosecutors want Trump out of office.
The usual procedures here would be for the FEC to investigate complaints and sort through these murky laws to determine if these kinds of payments are personal in nature or more properly classified as campaign expenditures. And, on the Daniels payment that was made and reimbursed by Trump, it is again a question of whether that was made for personal reasons (especially since they have been trying since 2011 to obtain agreement). Just because it would be helpful to the campaign does not convert it to a campaign expenditure. Think of a candidate with bad teeth who had dental work done to look better for the campaign; his campaign still could not pay for it because it’s a personal expenditure.
Contrast what is going on here with the treatment of the millions of dollars paid to a Democratic law firm which, in turn, paid out money to political research firm Fusion GPS and British ex-spy Christopher Steele without listing them on any campaign expenditure form — despite crystal-clear laws and regulations that the ultimate beneficiaries of the funds must be listed. This rule was even tightened recently. There is no question that hiring spies to do opposition research in Russia is a campaign expenditure, and yet, no prosecutorial raids have been sprung on the law firm, Fusion GPS or Steele. Reason: It does not “get” Trump.
Read Penn’s full op-ed at The Hill.
Lanny Davis: Michael Cohen’s crime is Trump’s crime
On ‘America’s Newsroom,’ the attorney for Michael Cohen says there’s ‘no question’ that President Trump committed a federal crime by directing and coordinating hush money payments by his client.
Mark Levin: ‘Donald Trump Is in the Clear’ — ‘Lanny Davis Blew It,’ ‘You Are a Dummy, Lanny’
Tuesday on Fox News Channel’s “Hannity,” conservative talker and legal expert Mark Levin criticized the plea deal Michael Cohen made with the prosecutor for the Southern District of New York regarding campaign finance law violations.
Levin argued Cohen pled guilty to the charge despite them not being offenses and at the behest of the prosecutor who insisted they were offenses.
Partial transcript as follows:
HANNITY: All right, Mark, I mean, there are some lessons here. I agree that you shouldn’t lie to the FBI. Everyone agrees with that. I also agree that you should pay your taxes. I also agree that you better not lie on a bank loan application. Mark, how did we get from Russia and that this is it after nearly, we are almost at 500 days.
LEVIN: All right. I want to address Michael Cohen. How did we get to that? I want to help the law professors, the constitutional experts, the criminal defense lawyers, the former prosecutors and of course, the professors. I want to help them understand what the law is.
The general counsel for the Clinton mob family, Lanny Davis, he had his client pleaded two counts of criminality that don’t exist. These campaign finance violations that is all over TV, they are saying implicates the president of the United States directly.
First, let’s back up. It is a guilty plea. It is a plea bargain between a prosecutor and a criminal. A criminal who doesn’t want to spend the rest of his life in prison. That is not precedent. That applies only to that specific case. Nobody cites plea bargains for precedent. That’s number one.
Number two, just because a prosecutor says that somebody violated a campaign law doesn’t make it so. He is not the judge. He is not the jury. We didn’t adjudicate anything. It never went to court. That’s number two.
A campaign expenditure under our federal campaign laws is an expenditure solely for campaign activity. A candidate who spends his own money or even corporate money for an event that occurred not as a result of the campaign, it is not a campaign expenditure.
Let me give a few examples to help people understand this, especially the American people. Let’s say, I wrote these down. Let’s say a candidate had said we owe vendors a whole lot of money. We’ve had disputes with them. But I want you to go ahead and pay them. I’m a candidate, I don’t want all this negative publicity.
So he says to his private lawyer, you pay them, I’ll reimburse you, get it done. Is that illegal? It’s perfectly legal.
Yet according to the prosecution of the Southern District of New York it’s paid at the direction of the candidate to influence the election. Yes, Mr. Prosecutor, how stupid is your point? It’s not a crime.
More, let’s say that this candidate settles a lawsuit that was initiated before he becomes a candidate. And he says to his personal lawyer, I want you to pay, settle that lawsuit. You can use my corporate funds, my private funds, whatever it is. That is perfectly legal, too.
The prosecutor would say, but that influenced the election. So what? There are certain things you do that influence an election that are legal and certain things you do to influence an election that are illegal.
Let’s say a candidate gets a non-disclosure agreement from a disgruntled employee, and he wants to quiet that disgruntled employee as he goes into the election. He pays the funds out of his pocket or through his corporation. Perfectly legal.
Nothing here was spent out of the campaign. Nothing was done with the campaign or to the campaign. This is exactly what the federal law is.
And Mr. Lanny Davis had his client plead guilty to two offenses that aren’t offenses that the prosecutor insisted were offenses. That’s why he is no good. That is Michael Cohen against Donald Trump.
Donald Trump is in the clear. Let’s say Donald Trump even directed Michael Cohen to make payments in non-disclosure agreements. So what? He is allowed to do that.
Now, here’s my question. Has the Southern District of New York ever paid money in a non-disclosure agreement with any of its employees? How about any U.S. attorney’s office in the United States? How about the Department of Justice? How about any business?
HANNITY: Or Congress.
LEVIN: How about any union? How about the DNC? How about a member of Congress? It’s done all the time. It is all hush money. And all of this hush money, they can’t pay hush money. Well, it is hush money. It’s legal. It’s a contract. It’s done all the time.
Now, what does Mr. Mueller have left? It’s worked. He is chasing the Manhattan madam. Who the hell is the Manhattan madam? I don’t know. And how is he interviewing? He is dragging her in front of the grand jury.
What’s next? The Manhattan madam. He’s got — he’s got Manafort where he wants him on banking charges, he set up a few guys like Flynn who has gotten in trouble. Now they have Cohen. What do they have? They have nothing. I’ll tell you what they have.
Mr. Mueller as a federal prosecutor is preparing his impeachment report which is an unconstitutional activity. Mr. Mueller is supposed to be non-political. He is not supposed to preparing impeachment report.
Mr. Mueller, I told you before, you can’t indict a sitting president. I told you that 15 months ago. Now you figured it out. You and Rosenstein figured it out. Now you and Rosenstein are trying to figure out what to do with the subpoena.
You see, Sean, Giuliani was on your show the other day or somebody’s show and said why do they take two or three weeks? I’ll tell you why they take two or three weeks. Because Mr. Mueller has to consult Mr. Rosenstein, his boss, to figure out what to do with the subpoena.
I’ll tell you what happens when they issue that subpoena. The president of the United States takes it all the way to the Supreme Court. And what does he cite? Department of Justice memos. What else does he cite? The Constitution of the United States.
So this is going to be an impeachment battle in the end. The president of the United States if he doesn’t get involved in the perjury trap — think about that. They don’t have a crime. He needs this interview to create a crime against the president of the United States. This prosecutor.
Well, that’s pretty damn outrageous. So, in any event, I want the news media to understand. You know what took place in the Southern District of New York? Nothing that matters. Zippo.
HANNITY: You know what, Mark?
LEVIN: There was no violation of the federal campaign laws. Lanny Davis blew it. Lanny Davis — Lanny Davis he puts out a tweet today. “Today, Cohen stood up and testified under oath that Donald Trump directed him to commit a crime.”
You are a dummy, Lanny.
“By making payments to two women for the principal purpose of influencing an election. If those payments were a crime for Michael Cohen then why wouldn’t they be a crime for Donald Trump?”
They weren’t a crime for Michael Cohen. He screwed himself. And they’re not a crime for Donald Trump either. Now move along and go back into your corner with Hillary Clinton.
FLASHBACK: Obama’s 2008 Campaign Broke Finance Laws, Receiving Largest Fine in U.S. History
The left is going crazy at the idea of taking down President Trump over campaign finance laws.
The problem with that tactic is that everyone has broken campaign finance laws…..
Even the left’s “beloved” Barack Hussein Obama, who actually received the largest FINE in U.S. History for his campaign finance violations.
President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign was fined $375,000 by the Federal Election Commission for campaign reporting violations — one of the largest fees ever levied against a presidential campaign, POLITICO has learned.
The fine — laid out in detail in FEC documents that have yet to be made public — arose from an audit of the campaign, which was published in April. POLITICO obtained a copy of the conciliation agreement detailing the fine, which was sent to Sean Cairncross, the chief lawyer for the Republican National Committee, one of the groups that filed complaints about the campaign’s FEC reporting from 2008.
“$375,000 is a huge fine,” said Republican election lawyer Jason Torchinsky. “It may one of their top five- or 10-largest fines.”
But he added, “They’re also the first billion-dollar presidential campaign. Proportionally, it’s not out of line.”
FEC officials declined to comment on the fee or the existence of the agreement. But for context, failed Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole set a record for FEC fines on his 1996 campaign when he paid $100,000 two years later.
“At the time, the 2008 campaign was record breaking, with over 3 million grass-roots donors,” Obama campaign spokewoman Katie Hogan said. “The very few outstanding questions about the $750 million that was raised have now all been resolved.”
The major sticking point for the FEC appeared to be a series of missing 48-hour notices for nearly 1,300 contributions totaling more than $1.8 million — an issue that lawyers familiar with the commission’s work say the FEC takes seriously. The notices must be filed on contributions of $1,000 or more that are received within the 20-day window of Election Day.
More than half of those contributions were transferred from the Obama Victory Fund,a joint committee between the campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
Sources said the fine resulting from the settlement agreement has been paid, with $230,000 coming from the Obama campaign’s coffers and the remainder from the DNC.
The document outlined other violations, such as erroneous contribution dates on some campaign reports. The Obama campaign was also late returning some contributions that exceeded the legal limit.
For critics of the Obama campaign, the audit was a reminder of other reporting errors by the 2008 effort, which campaign officials said they tried to correct in real-time. But independent experts, including former FEC commissioner Michael Toner, said after the audit was released that the infractions were relatively minor, given the scope of the campaign.