Where’s the Money Trail?

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by Daveda Gruber:

On Monday President Trump adamantly denied that during the weeks leading up to the 2016 election the hush-money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal were campaign contributions, instead calling them a “simple private transaction.”

Trump tweeted:

Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, recently admitted in a plea deal to violating federal campaign finance laws. Cohen arranged payments to Daniels and McDougal on Trump’s behalf, according to the plea.

On Friday prosecutors released a sentencing memo calling for Cohen to a “substantial term of imprisonment.” Cohen was known as the president’s former fixer.

Cohen is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 12.

Trump pointed toward Cohen, saying that if a mistake was made and it was considered a contribution, the “liability” should be with the lawyer.

Dan Backer, an expert campaign finance lawyer and a veteran campaign counsel said in an interview published Monday that he is not impressed with the Department of Justice’s evidence that effectively links Trump to campaign finance violations after the recent release of the Cohen sentencing memo.

Backer went on to say that there appears to be no evidence to corroborate the DOJ’s apparent assertion of any illegality on Trump’s part.

He said it is common practice for high-profile individuals and companies to take part in these kinds of payment arrangements. He said Trump is a brand, he has carried out similar payments for years and these so-called “hush-buys” will likely continue.

He also said, “Brand protection is not a campaign contribution.”

Prosecutors in New York, where Cohen pleaded guilty in August to campaign finance crimes in connection with those payments, wrote in the filing, “With respect to both payments, Cohen acted with the intent to influence the 2016 presidential election. Cohen coordinated his actions with one or more members of the campaign, including through meetings and phone calls, about the fact, nature, and timing of the payments. In particular, and as Cohen himself has now admitted, with respect to both payments, he acted in coordination with and at the direction of Individual-1.”

The filing does not name Trump, but does reference “Individual-1” who became president in 2017. Trump has not been charged with any wrong doings.

The president’s lawyers have downplayed the seriousness of campaign finance crimes. There are some Democrats who consider it to be an impeachable offense.

A lawyer said, “The notion that every penny a candidate personally or professionally spends is somehow reportable to the FEC is utter nonsense.”

On Sunday, Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the web of federal and state campaign finance laws is so complex that it presents fairness issues.

Paul said, “There are thousands and thousands of rules. It’s incredibly complicated, campaign finance. We have to decide whether or not really criminal penalties are the way we should approach campaign finance.”

Cohen’s plea does not necessarily specify that prosecutors could have effectively prosecuted a campaign finance case against Cohen or Trump.

Andrew C. McCarthy, a senior at the National Review Institute, wrote that Trump is very likely to be indicted for violating campaign finance laws.

He resigned from the Justice Department in 2003. During the Obama administration, McCarthy promoted conspiracy theories that the Obama administration was aiding Islamist plots to sabotage the West from within.

McCarthy wrote, “If the president was not implicated, I suspect they would not have prosecuted Cohen for campaign finance violations at all. Those charges had a negligible impact on the jail time Cohen faces, which is driven by the more serious offenses of tax and financial institution fraud, involving millions of dollars.”

There is a big battle coming folks. This is not going to be pretty.

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