In an op-ed published in The Hill on Wednesday, Mark Penn, the former pollster for both Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, argued that although the president should do a better job of picking aides who pay taxes, he’s not responsible for their financial woes. President Trump did not violate any campaign finance laws, but Hillary Clinton did.
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.
So, Trump spends $130,000 to keep the lid on a personal story and the full weight of state prosecutors comes down on his lawyer, tossing attorney-client privilege to the wind. Democrats spend potentially millions on secret opposition research and no serious criminal investigation occurs. Remember that the feds tried a similar strategy against Democratic candidate Edwards six years ago and it failed. As Gregory Craig, a lawyer who worked both for President Clinton and Edwards, said, “The government theory is wrong on the facts and wrong on the law. It is novel and untested. There is no civil or criminal precedent for such a prosecution.” Tried it there anyway and it failed.
Let us also not forget that President Clinton was entrapped into lying about his affairs and, although impeached, was acquitted by the Senate. The lesson was clear: We are not going to remove presidents for lying about who they had affairs with, nor even convict politicians on campaign finance violations for these personal payments.
With Cohen pleading guilty, there will be no test of soundness of the prosecution theories here, and it is yet another example of the double standards of justice of one investigation that gave Clinton aides and principals every benefit of the doubt and another investigation that targeted Trump people until they found unrelated crimes to use as leverage. Prosecutors thought nothing of using the Logan Act against former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, but they are using obscure and unsettled elements of campaign finance law against Trump lawyer Cohen to manufacture crimes in what is a naked attempt to take Trump down and defeat democracy.
Trump should do a better job of picking aides who pay their taxes, but he is not responsible for their financial problems and crimes. These investigations, essentially based on an opposition dossier, were never anything other than an attempt to push into a corner as many Trump aides and family members as possible and shake them down until they could get close enough to Trump to try to take him down.
That is why so many of his aides, lawyers, and actions in the campaign and in the White House have undergone hour by hour scrutiny to find anything that could be colored into a crime, leaving far behind the original Russia collusion theory as the fake pretext it was. Paying for nondisclosure agreements for perfectly legal activities is not a crime, not a campaign contribution as commonly understood or ruled upon by the Federal Election Commission. Squeezing guilty pleas out of vulnerable witnesses does nothing to change those facts.
Source: The Hill