- Cohen was sentenced to 3-years in prison for campaign finance violations.
- Cohen now claims Trump was knowledgeable of the crimes and encouraged them.
- Affair hush money, in this case, does not fall under the in-kind contribution definition.
What started as a basic inquiry built around the Clinton funded Steele Dossier grew into a complex spider web few can accurately trace. The Dossier in question was nothing more than politicized opposition research, but was used as the chief selling point to obtain FISA warrants against the incoming president.
The Dossier was never proven to be factual when used to obtain the warrants and launch the investigation we see today.
Michael Flynn lied to Vice President Mike Pence about making contact with the Russian government during the transition. He also lied to the FBI about this contact. The contact itself is not a crime. At the time he was slated to be the next National Security Adviser for the President. There is no reason why an incoming security adviser should be prohibited from reaching out to foreign states. Even under the Logan Act, it is not a crime. Lying to the FBI about legal contact was his only charge.
After the election, the media ran with a story claiming Trump was under investigation for Russia meddling. FBI Director James Comey told him three times he was not under investigation. Comey was later fired and it came out that Comey was a government leaker.
The firing prompted the hiring of a ‘Special Counsel’ headed by Robert Mueller to probe Russian influence in the 2016 election. This resulted in a couple convictions for lying to the FBI, former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort getting indicted for tax evasion 10-years ago, and a few indictments for Facebook ads by Russian nationals. No charges so far related to Trump.
However, on a side investigation it was found Trumps personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, paid off several women to keep quiet about affairs he had 10-years ago. The most famous was Stormy Daniels. With Michael Cohen convicted and sentenced to 3-years in prison for violating campaign finance law, many wonder if Trump is next on the chopping blocks.
Cohen’s hush money payment was seen as problematic because it is viewed as an in-kind campaign contribution which was never reported and exceeds the legal limit of $2,700 per election. In-kind contributions are any non cash items given or used by a campaign for campaign purposes. If a baker donated donuts to hand out at a fundraiser, that would need to be reported and the fair market value of said donuts may not exceed $2,700. The hush payment was $150,000.
If this were an in-kind contribution that Trump knew about he would also be guilty.
However, because of Trumps history of extramarital encounters with women, his fame, and his business prominence, it is easily argued that the payments were not done for the purpose of winning the election. To be recording as a contribution, they money must be used directly for campaign related expenditures. This was not the direct purpose of the hush money.
Then candidate Trump is no stranger to these situations, nor are most businessmen and celebrities who cannot keep in their pants. Trump boasts about his reputation so it is only logical to assume these payments were not done to win an election; everyone already knew he is a serial cheater. The payments were done to protect his reputation. Regardless of whether he won or not, these cheating allegations would have hurt his reputation and damaged his marriage. An affair coming to light would have done little to his poll numbers because everyone knew he had done similar things in the past.
Because hush money to save face with his family and with the public, regardless of the election outcome, is not directly tied to the campaign, he did not violate the FEC reporting guidelines, nor did he surpass the value limit.
Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to an act that was not actually criminal. Trump is being pursued for non-election related hush money. The justice system investigates people in search of a crime rather than investigates crimes in search of a criminal.
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