Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s 40-page memo on Michael Cohen released Friday makes two things perfectly clear, there was no evidence of collusion with Russia during the 2016 election but there very well could be an indictment against President Donald Trump for campaign finance violations, according to analysts.
Former New York prosecutor Andrew McCarthy’s opinion article on the Fox New’s website argues that Cohen’s hush payments to porn star Stephanie Clifford, known by her stage name Stormy Daniels, and Cohen’s payment to Playboy model Karen McDougal “were not merely unreported. It states that Cohen and the Trump organization – the president’s company – went to great lengths to conceal them by fraudulent bookkeeping.”
Do those payments mean Trump committed a federal crime if he directed Cohen to make the payments? Absolutely not
McCarthy goes on to state that ‘equally significantly, Cohen was not charged with merely making illegal donations. He was charged in the first campaign finance count with causing a company to make illegal donations…It has been obvious for some time that President Trump is the principal subject of the investigation still being conducted by the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.”
Gregg Jarrett, a Fox News legal analyst, whose book “The Russia Hoax: The Illicit Scheme to Clear Hillary Clinton and Frame Donald Trump” is a top New York Times bestseller, argued that Cohen pleaded guilty to a non-crime, a situation that happens often too frequently. He argues that Trump did not commit a crime.
“Do those payments mean Trump committed a federal crime if he directed Cohen to make the payments? Absolutely not,” says Jarrett in his column to Fox News. “Just because one person pleads guilty does not mean that another person is automatically guilty. Indeed, in agreeing to the prosecutors’ demands, Cohen actually pleaded guilty to a non-crime. Why would he do such a thing? Again, the answer is leniency. Sadly, it happens rather frequently.”
“Why are the payments to the women a non-crime – in other words, perfectly legal? First, Trump did not utilize campaign funds for the payments. Second, under the law, he is allowed to spend an unlimited amount of his own money on his campaign,” Jarrett added.
Top Democrats, who will be taking the majority in January, are jumping all over the possibility of an indictment and threatening the possibility of an impeachment.
Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., told CNN’s “State of the Union” if found guilty the charges are “impeachable offenses…in the service of fraudulently obtaining the office.”
Nadler was on the Judiciary Committee when it voted to impeach former President Bill Clinton. He fought against impeaching President Clinton at the time and also cautioned that “impeachment should not be partisan.”
On CBS’ “Face the Nation” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif. said that “there’s a very real prospect that on the day Donald Trump leaves office, the Justice Department may indict him. …He may be the first president in quite some time to face the real prospect of jail time.”
Mueller’s investigation, which began as an investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia, has quickly spiraled into an investigation leading to convictions on everything but Russia, say other analysts and criminal defense attorneys.
Regardless, the consequences of Trump’s payments to Daniels and McDougal could be significant but it doesn’t mean that he will be convicted even if he’s indicted.
McCarthy notes that “campaign finance violations have a high proof threshold for intent. President Trump could argue that because there was no spending limit on his contributions, he did not think about the campaign-finance implications, much less willfully violate them.”
“There is, furthermore, a significant legal question about whether the hush-money payments here qualify as ‘in-kind’ campaign contributions,” McCarthy says. “There is nothing illegal per se in making a non-disclosure agreement; they are quite common. The criminal law comes into play only if the non-disclosure payment is deemed a donation for purposes of influencing a political campaign. Arguably, the payment is not a donation if it was made for an expense that was independent of the campaign – that is, money that would have had to be paid even if there were no campaign.”