Donald Trump The Unindicted Co-Conspirator

No matter how long Donald Trump remains in office, August 21, 2018 will be the day that everything changed.

Of all the news to come out of yesterday’s conviction of Paul Manafort and the guilty plea by the President’s longtime lawyer and “fixer” Michael Cohen, the most significant is the fact that Michael Cohen implicated the President of the United States in a conspiracy to commit Federal crimes, essentially putting him in the same category as President Nixon with respect to the Watergate break-in and subsequent cover up:

Michael D. Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer, made the extraordinary admission in court on Tuesday that Mr. Trump had directed him to arrange payments to two women during the 2016 campaign to keep them from speaking publicly about affairs they said they had with Mr. Trump.

Mr. Cohen acknowledged the illegal payments while pleading guilty to breaking campaign finance laws and other charges, a litany of crimes that revealed both his shadowy involvement in Mr. Trump’s circle and his own corrupt business dealings.

He told a judge in United States District Court in Manhattan that the payments to the women were made “in coordination with and at the direction of a candidate for federal office,” implicating the president in a federal crime.

“I participated in this conduct, which on my part took place in Manhattan, for the principal purpose of influencing the election” for president in 2016, Mr. Cohen said.

The plea represented a pivotal moment in the investigation into the president, and the scene in the Manhattan courtroom was striking. Mr. Cohen, a longtime lawyer for Mr. Trump — and loyal confidant — described in plain-spoken language how Mr. Trump worked with him to cover up a potential sex scandal that Mr. Trump feared would endanger his rising candidacy.

(…)

Mr. Trump’s lawyers have, for months, said privately that they considered Mr. Cohen’s case to be potentially more problematic for the president than the investigation by the special counsel.

But Mr. Trump’s lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, said in a statement after Mr. Cohen’s plea, “There is no allegation of any wrongdoing against the president in the government’s charges against Mr. Cohen.”

In federal court in Manhattan, Mr. Cohen made the admission about Mr. Trump’s role in the payments to the women — an adult film actress and a former Playboy playmate — as he pleaded guilty to two campaign finance crimes.

One of those charges stemmed from a $130,000 payment he made to the actress, Stephanie Clifford, better known as Stormy Daniels, in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

Prosecutors said that Trump Organization executives were involved in reimbursing Mr. Cohen for that payment, accepting his phony invoices that listed it as a legal expense. The other charge concerned a complicated arrangement in which a tabloid bought the rights to the story about the former Playboy model, Karen McDougal, then killed it.

As The Washington Post noted, other legal pleadings released yesterday demonstrate that Trump’s real estate company served as the conduit to reimburse the payments that Cohen made to Daniels and McDougal:

President Trump’s real estate company authorized paying $420,000 to lawyer Michael Cohen in his effort to silence women during the presidential campaign and then relied on “sham” invoices from Cohen that concealed the nature of the payments, according to legal filings released Tuesday.

The payments began flowing in February 2017, soon after Trump took office, when Cohen approached Trump Organization executives seeking to be reimbursed for “election-related” expenses, prosecutors said.

That included a $130,000 payment Cohen had made to adult-film star Stormy Daniels so she would remain silent about an alleged affair with Trump, according to the court documents.

Trump executives decided Cohen should be paid more than he sought — an additional $360,000 for expenses and other fees and taxes, plus a $60,000 bonus, prosecutors said.

The involvement of Trump’s company in the hush-money payments has been previously reported, but Tuesday’s documents, released as part of Cohen’s plea deal with federal prosecutors, offered the most detailed accounting yet of the full scope of the payments and the machinations inside the president’s company over how they were made.

While Trump removed himself from day-to-day operations of the Trump Organization after the election, he put his assets in a trust and retained his ownership stake.

A Trump spokesman referred questions to the Trump Organization, where a spokesman declined to comment on the arrangements Tuesday evening.

The documents point to two unnamed Trump Organization employees who prosecutors say approved the payments — with one executive instructing an employee to describe the fees to Cohen as legal expenses. The employee was instructed to put the words “retainer for the month of January and February 2017” in the description of the first payments, court filings said.

Cohen submitted monthly invoices and received all the monthly checks, according to the filings, for a total of $420,000.

“In truth and fact, there was no such retainer agreement, and the monthly invoices COHEN submitted were not in connection with any legal services he had provided in 2017,” prosecutors wrote.

Trump’s trust paid Cohen early in 2017, but according to Trump’s attorney, he personally paid Cohen the rest of the monthly invoices. The payments, as well as Cohen’s admission to prosecutors that he made illegal campaign contributions “in cooperation” with Trump’s campaign, present potential legal questions for Trump’s company and his campaign, experts said.

“If you believe the theory that the payment was made solely for the purpose of influencing a federal election, then the recipient of the benefit would be the Trump presidential campaign, and therefore they would have received an impermissible excessive contribution,” said Charlie Spies, who served as counsel for Mitt Romney’s 2008 presidential campaign.

To put it bluntly, the facts as alleged and as admitted to by Michael Cohen under oath in court yesterday make the President of the United States an unindicted participant in a conspiracy to violate Federal law. In this particular case, the law(s) in question are those that place monetary limits on the amount that can be donated to a federal campaign either in cash or in the form of an in-kind contribution and the laws that require campaigns to report any such contributions as part of their regular Federal Election Commission reports. Additionally, the fact that the reimbursements for the payments made by Cohen were disguised in the form of phony invoices submitted to Trump’s real estate company arguably constitute mail and/or wire fraud, violations of Federal laws regarding filing false claims in connection with an election campaign, fraud, and other charges. In other words, in a fairly small number of words uttered in a lower Manhattan courtroom yesterday, Michael Cohen implicated his former client in a conspiracy to violate a number of Federal laws for the purposes of influencing a Federal election. If it weren’t for the fact that Trump is currently the sitting President, there’s a strong possibility that he would have been indicted along with Cohen on the charges related to the payments to Daniels and McDougal. This means that, effectively, the President of the United States is an unindicted co-conspirator in the Cohen case even though he is not officially named as such in the same matter that Richard Nixon was during the course of the Watergate prosecutions, at least not yet.00

As a matter of law, of course, it takes more than just the testimony of an accomplice like Michael Cohen to implicate Trump or any other co-conspirator in this or any other case. In addition to the rather obvious questions about Cohen’s own credibility, it is generally the case that accomplice testimony must be corroborated either by testimony from others or by documentary evidence. In this case, though, it seems clear that the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York has such evidence at hand. What it does based on that remains to be seen, but the importance and the severity of what happened yesterday cannot be understated. Donald Trump is more than just a buffoon in a job that he is clearly unqualified for, more than just a narcissistic xenophobe who has praised white supremacists as “very fine people” and appealed to the worst aspects of American politics to get elected. He is a man who engaged in a conspiracy to illegally influence the outcome of a Presidential election by illegally suppressing information. As such, he is an existential threat to the Republic. Nothing that happens between now and the day when he finally leaves office, either voluntarily or otherwise, will change that.

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, Law and the Courts, Politicians, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Michael Reynolds says:

    He is a man who engaged in a conspiracy to illegally influence the outcome of a Presidential election by illegally suppressing information. As such, he is an existential threat to the Republic.

    Yep.

    Trump is actively harming the United States on a daily basis. He has already done terrible damage that will take future presidents a long and serious effort to repair, and American standing in the world won’t recover for decades, if ever. It is quite possible that Trump’s weakness will bring on a war on the edges of Russia, the middle east or Korea.

    He is in effect an agent of a foreign government, because here is the impossible-to-avoid extrapolation: people who conspire with KGB agents to fix elections cease to be free. That reality doesn’t even get into the underlying cause of Trump’s subservience to Putin, Trump’s been on the kompromat hook for years because he’s laundered Russian mob money.

    We need to cleanse the White House of this pig, clean out the Republicans in Congress, elect people determined to repair the damage and bring decency, integrity, and patriotism back.

    And then we need to find every way we can to fck the Russians. They need to bleed for this.

    33
  2. Kathy says:

    But Mr. Trump’s lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, said in a statement after Mr. Cohen’s plea, “There is no allegation of any wrongdoing against the president in the government’s charges against Mr. Cohen.

    emphasis added.

    This is a perfect example of what Asimov termed “making the truth lie for you.” From this kind of statement, true but irrelevant, the Trumpidians try to build “proof” that El Cheeto did nothing wrong.

    But, consider, if Cohen told the truth, which as Doug points out can be verified through other evidence, then Trump is guilty of conspiracy (or collusion if we go coloquial). If Cohen is lying, then he has engaged in libel by defaming Trump (yes, I think that’s hilarious, too), and also in perjury.

    Either way, Cohen has made a very serious allegation that Trump committed a crime, or several crimes. If El Cheeto were innocent, he’d demand Cohen be charged with perjury, and would vow to cooperate with federal prosecutors to prove it. He should also sue Cohen for libel.

    The good thing is that Federal prosecutors can, and I’m sure will, investigate the allegations.

    The bad thing is that Trump now has every incentive to run roughshod over the DOJ. Forget Rosenstein, he may fire Sessions, or even threaten to shut the whole department down. After all, they all work for him and should not investigate his criminal activities as though he were a mere peasant.

    The goose is just about done.

    10
  3. CSK says:

    The Trumpkins are just digging in harder. And their excuses are really creative:

    1. The language in Cohen’s plea indicates that it was a set-up.

    2. It was Daniels and McDougal who were trying to influence the election, and Trump paid them off to prevent them from so doing.

    3. Cohen is a Deep State plant, as is Manafort.

    4. Lanny Davis is working for Hillary Clinton.

    11
  4. CSK says:

    Lanny Davis is on MSNBC denying–vehemently–that Cohen was ever in Prague.

    5
  5. Kathy says:

    @CSK:

    2. It was Daniels and McDougal who were trying to influence the election, and Trump paid them off to prevent them from so doing.

    The Trumpkins really missed their turn when brains were handed out, didn’t they?

    Influencing an election is not illegal. That’s what campaigns are. That’s what political commentators and pundits do during campaign season.

    I’m not well acquainted with campaign finance laws, but it might not even have been illegal to pay Daniels and McDougal off, had it been done so according to the law.

    The thing that was illegal was using moneys in amounts higher than those allowed by law, and without even reporting them as required by law.

    And, to make it clear to the Trumpkins, breaking the law through illegal acts is called a crime.

    8
  6. An Interested Party says:

    Donald Trump is more than just a buffoon in a job that he is clearly unqualified for, more than just a narcissistic xenophobe who has praised white supremacists as “very fine people” and appealed to the worst aspects of American politics to get elected. He is a man who engaged in a conspiracy to illegally influence the outcome of a Presidential election by illegally suppressing information. As such, he is an existential threat to the Republic.

    What kind of blindness must it take to not realize all of the above? Of course, I’m sure there are plenty of Republicans who do realize all of this and still cravenly stick by him to maintain their own political power, but what about his supporters? What about those who still actively praise him? These truths go beyond politics…yes, there were plenty of Republicans/conservatives who disliked Obama and Clinton as there were plenty of Democrats/liberals who disliked Bush, but this is beyond all of that…anyone who can’t acknowledge what Doug wrote as the truth has to be either an idiot or a cynical acquirer of money/power or both…how totally disgusting…

    6
  7. MarkedMan says:

    Serious crimes, but from the Republicans? Crickets. Just look at the front page of the American Conservative. Literally not a single word on any of this and there hasn’t been for weeks. The lead column is some inane nonsense about how the rise of Socialism means we are doomed.

    Back in the day, when serious Republicans (and we have to go back a few years to find such a creature) were taking their cues from Fox News and discussing ad nauseam about manufactured and totally BS “crimes” of Obama, or going on and on about how the Clintons were tantamount to murderers because their charity received donations from people that weren’t pillars of the community (aside: I wonder how many church building would exist if charities only took money from pillars of the community), some of us were telling them that they were being played for suckers. That the Republicans had no decency, no sense of morality, that this was all a distraction.

    Just like with the phony evangelicals (Impeach Clinton! Worship Trump!), the Republican leadership has been shown for what they are: phonies. Nothing they say is worth a bent nickel. We are never obligated to listen to a word they say. God help us if we don’t get the few Dems and Independents who believe in the rule of law into power, because there are no Republicans who do.

    14
  8. CSK says:

    @Kathy:

    Yeah, I know. Number 2 is my favorite, too.

    4
  9. Liberal Capitalist says:

    I do have to give POTUS Trump credit: He ABSOLUTELY knows how to get out in front of a story.

    https://www.vox.com/2018/8/22/17770074/fox-and-friends-trump-cohen-campaign-finance-payment

    If you watch the video, he is making the case (before being asked) that the money was his, not his campaign’s. As such (he states) there is no campaign violation.

    However, $450,000 that has an influence on an election – without being declared – is a violation of campaign regulations.

    Now, here’s the thing: Trump realizes that arguing that point will result in it going to court, where he can again state from the sidelines things like “fake news”, “witch hunt” and “biased judges”. In the past, he has a history of winning court cases as financially he usually overwhelms the opponent.

    But now the opponent is the entire USA.

    As Doug says, as of Aug 21st, the line has been crossed.

    If you are a Trump supporter, you will absolutely have to accept that YOU support an individual that is a liar and a lawbreaker. AND that you are OK with that moral vacuum being the head of our country.

    Deplorable. Sad.

    11
  10. Kathy says:

    @Liberal Capitalist:

    If you watch the video, he is making the case (before being asked) that the money was his, not his campaign’s. As such (he states) there is no campaign violation.

    However, $450,000 that has an influence on an election – without being declared – is a violation of campaign regulations.

    What’s worse is that he’s lying though his dentures.

    It’s well established Cohen made the payment with his money. If trump repaid him, then the payoff money was a loan to Trump’s campaign by Cohen, or a contribution in kind, and either way it was not declared and therefore was illegal.

    I’d like to see him argue that in court.

    8
  11. Bob@youngstown says:

    @Kathy:
    Do you suppose that Trump is trying to make a distinction between Trump’s personal funds and the funds originating from the Trump Co.

    Setting aside the failure to disclose ( a violation in it’s own right) ….
    From what (little) I understand, a candidate can make unlimited contributions to his own campaign. However contributions from corporations to the candidate have specific limits. What is not clear (to me) is if the limits on contributions applies to non-public companies such as Trump’s.

    2
  12. Gustopher says:

    Unindicted co-conspirator is such an ugly and unsatisfactory term.

    So, why is there a belief that the president cannot be indicted? Did I miss that chunk of the constitution in my US History class?

    I know that the only way he can be removed from office is to be impeached, but I don’t recall anything about him being above the law. Is there a requirement that the President not be presidenting from jail? If anything, that speaks to a need for deferred incarceration. (White) House Arrest.

    Paula Jones was able to sue Bill Clinton when he was sitting president. I don’t see why this is different.

    9
  13. Kylopod says:

    @Gustopher:

    Paula Jones was able to sue Bill Clinton when he was sitting president. I don’t see why this is different.

    The difference is that the question of whether a sitting president can be sued was settled (in Clinton v. Jones). Whether a sitting president can be charged with a crime hasn’t.

    7
  14. TM01 says:

    Wow.
    You have truly gone offf the deep end, Doug.

    What’s illegal about using one’s own money to pay someone? There is, AFAIK, no allegation here that he used campaign money here. And if his lawyer went off and did something illegal, while committing a totally legal action, I don’t see the big deal here.

    I like to get my legal opinions from Dershowitz because he’s actually smart. But I’m pretty sure he’s considered a Russian conspirator here now.

    And how is s payment a “contribution?”

    We all know that 90% of politicians have something going on the side. And they give their mistresses money and gifts with the expectation that they will remain hush during their campaigns. Are all of them guilty of campaign finance violations now? Because I’m sure they aren’t reporting those gifts and payments.

    1
  15. SC_Birdflyte says:

    The logical path (in my mind) goes like this: Access Hollywood tape is released; Trump realizes any more such revelations could sink the campaign; directs Cohen to settle up with the candidate’s paramours; directs Giuliani to stir up a stink with the anti-Clinton crowd in the FBI’s New York field office; release of “undiscovered” Weiner e-mails; the smoke bomb detonates and voters stumble to the polls ignorant of what’s already gone on behind the scenes.

    6
  16. TM01 says:

    he is an existential threat to the Republic

    Wow.

    The way you’re writing, a person might think Trump was out there with his phone and pen changing laws all by himself. Or violating court orders. Or using the IRS to target his political opponents.

    2
  17. @TM01:

    What’s illegal about using one’s own money to pay someone? There is, AFAIK, no allegation here that he used campaign money here. And if his lawyer went off and did something illegal, while committing a totally legal action, I don’t see the big deal here.

    The “big deal” as you put it is that it is quite literally illegal to give or do anything of value to a political campaign or candidate that is in excess of the Federal contribution limits. Given the fact that the payments were clearly made to benefit (or in this case protect) the campaign, makes it clear that the payments to Daniels and McDougal were made for the purpose of protecting the campaign during the final two weeks of the Presidential election.

    The law also requires that an in-kind contribution such as this be properly reported to the Federal Election Commission, which the Trump campaign has even to this day failed to do.

    In his plea agreement, and his admissions under oath to the Court this week, Cohen admits that these payments were made for the purpose of protecting the campaign. Cohen further admits that he did this under the direction and with the knowledge of “a candidate for Federal office” that is obviously his former client Donald Trump.

    Taken together this all adds up to a conspiracy between Trump and Cohen to violate Federal law. And that, in and of itself, is a Federal crime.

    The fact that campaign money was not used to pay Daniels or McDougal is entirely irrelevant.

    29
  18. SKI says:

    @TM01:
    Stop and try to think a moment. If the facts couldn’t establish a crime, why did the Federal Court accept a plea deal to said crime?

    1. According to the sworn testimony in the pleas acceptance, corroborated by the documentary evidence described by the prosecution in their filing, the payments weren’t from Trump personally.
    2. Even if they had been, he didn’t declare them (which is also a crime).

    12
  19. Kylopod says:

    @Doug Mataconis: I’d just like to add that this isn’t some arcane, technical violation. It goes to the very heart of why these laws exist in the first place, which is to foster greater transparency. Trump and Cohen used the out-of-pocket route specifically in order to get around that transparency so that information that might be damaging to the campaign wouldn’t be disclosed to the public.

    But Trump, amusingly, seemed to give away the whole store in an interview yesterday: “They didn’t come out of the campaign, they came from me.”

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/news-blog/live/2018/aug/22/trump-turmoil-aftermath-cohen-manafort-verdicts-live

    My only guess as to why Trump would make this startling confession–which, to be clear, is a confession to having committed a felony–is because he assumed that “campaign finance violations” necessarily means using campaign money illegally. So he figured that if he denied the money came from the campaign, that got him off the hook. TM01 is parroting this logic.

    The weird thing is, I could almost see Trump’s pathological lying becoming a defense of him here: since he’s always making shit up, this (inadvertent) confession is worth nothing. He’s just saying whatever he thinks will save his ass, and its truth is just as questionable as anything else he says.

    15
  20. grumpy realist says:

    @Lava Land: Where “making America Great Again” means “pay no attention to the grifting, sleeze, and corruption of our Great Leader”, hmmm?

    Well, we now know the sort of people who like to support strongmen and despise the rule of law. Open the picture book and it’s got your face in it.

    11
  21. Joe says:

    I am still confused – happy for an explanation – about whether it would have been a violation IF Trump had personally written the checks out of his personal account and told no one. In fact, IIRC, his campaign amended there disclosures a few months ago to reflect the reimbursement to Cohen. So many stories, so little time.

  22. KM says:

    @Kylopod :

    My only guess as to why Trump would make this startling confession–which, to be clear, is a confession to having committed a felony–is because he assumed that “campaign finance violations” necessarily means using campaign money illegally. So he figured that if he denied the money came from the campaign, that got him off the hook. TM01 is parroting this logic.

    There’s a lot of this going around. 5¢ scholars thinking themselves clever. It’s the same crap with conservatives bitching about “free speech” violations from a private company like Twitter not letting them post lies and defamation. The concept they’re trying to convey is “suppression of unpopular or repugnant viewpoint” but that’s not a violation of free speech as written in 1A. Similarly, Trump likely got a vague notion that “campaign finance violations” means “don’t blow the donations on strippers” and not “hiding the fact that I’m paying huge amounts of money to strippers about something that can affect the campaign and not telling anyone like I should”. Since they fundamentally misunderstand the purpose of whatever law they’re citing, it can mean whatever damn fool thing they want it too (and always to their benefit).

    The saddest part about all this is this didn’t have to happen. Stormy got paid off to kill a story they thought was damaging to his reputation. Does it seem like Trump & Stormy’s affair had any negative effect on how his voters perceive him? People are going to go to jail for something that would have been just another That’s Donald! moment to the Trumpkins. All of this damage done to our nation, image and perceptions of rule of law…… for something his cult wouldn’t have blinked an eye at. The cover-up really is what kills you.

    8
  23. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Lava Land:
    Hey, look, I know you’re doing your best to attract attention, but you’re not a good troll. You’re just too clueless and boring. You don’t even know enough to take a good shot.

    10
  24. Kylopod says:

    @KM:

    Does it seem like Trump & Stormy’s affair had any negative effect on how his voters perceive him? People are going to go to jail for something that would have been just another That’s Donald! moment to the Trumpkins.

    I don’t think that’s at all clear. At the time this story would have broken, Trump was already up to his neck in the Access Hollywood revelations. Now, you might ask, if the Access Hollywood controversy didn’t hurt him, why should the comparatively more mild Stormy Daniels revelations do so?

    First, I don’t think it’s accurate to say Access Hollywood didn’t hurt him. It did hurt him. He just recovered from it after the turnover of the news cycle and the new focus on Hillary following the Comey Letter. If the election had been held anytime in October, it’s very likely Trump would have lost. The polls made this all too clear.

    Second, if the Stormy Daniels story had broken just after the Access Hollywood one, it would have piled on top of it, and may very well caused the whole thing to stick in the news longer than when it was just about Access Hollywood.

    The bottom line is we don’t know. This kind of smug certainty I’m constantly hearing of “Eh, Trump is immune to any of this stuff” strikes me as overly simplistic. There’s a lot of evidence that many people voted for Trump while holding their nose. (Per CNN’s exit polls, if his share of the vote had been restricted to voters with a favorable opinion of him, he’d have won only 37% of the popular vote and almost certainly lost the election in a landslide.) If he had pushed away even a small segment of those voters, he wouldn’t be president now. What happened in Nov. 2016 depended heavily on timing: it came just at a point when negative (and largely bogus) information about Hillary was dominating the news cycle, drowning out the previous negative information about Trump, so that voters who disliked both candidates were far likelier to be reminded of their reservations about Hillary. But it doesn’t prove that those voters weren’t affected by the revelations about Trump.

    15
  25. Facebones says:

    Listening to Trump try and explain away all his malfeasance is listening to the voice of rich white privilege. It’s hearing the white suburbanite bitch about a speeding ticket or getting caught cheating on taxes. (“Why don’t you catch REAL criminals instead of harassing decent taxpayers?!?”) It’s a real mindset of “I’m a good person, therefore I can’t be a criminal/racist/cheater etc.” No wonder his base loves him so much, he whines like they do.

    10
  26. Joe says:

    @Facebones:

    Yes, 1000 times this! I feel this even more so when I hear him talk about Manafort being a good person, despite a conviction by a jury of his peers (the one juror I have seen interviewed described herself as a Trump supporter) of having short-changed his fellow US tax payers of the tax on $14 million dollars and of having lied to banks to get loans to keep up his lifestyle. Trump’s reaction is drenched in entitlement and privilege. He thinks Manafort is a great guy so his conviction is just unfair. Yeeech!

    3
  27. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    @KM:

    Does it seem like Trump & Stormy’s affair had any negative effect on how his voters perceive him?

    It would. Even in France both Sarkozy and Hollande took political damage from their broken marriages and affairs. Hollande was portrayed as a dumb-looking playboy surrounded by women in a satirical TV show.

  28. MarkedMan says:

    @Joe:

    I hear him talk about Manafort being a good person

    And Manafort is so far from a good person. Forget the financial stuff. He pimped for the absolute worst dictators and killers in the world. I mean, genocide level scumbags.

    BTW, one of his partners in helping these sleaze bags was Tad Devine, who Bernie Sanders hired as his chief strategist in the last election. Amazing how silent everyone is about this. Could you imagine the uproar if Hillary had so much as taken a meeting with Devine?

    7
  29. rachel says:

    Could you imagine the uproar if Hillary had so much as taken a meeting with Devine?

    How different is that from the uproar over every other goddam thing she–or any of her friends or family–does?

    3
  30. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Joe:

    I am still confused – happy for an explanation – about whether it would have been a violation IF Trump had personally written the checks out of his personal account and told no one.

    No. Candidates are permitted to contribute as much of their personal funds to their campaign as they wish. Had Trump directly paid Daniels off out of his own pocket, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

    Fortunately, he’s both too stupid and too duplicitous to have done so. He instead conspired with Cohen to have Cohen make an illegal contribution AND to reimburse him for it.

    That implicates him, equally with Cohen, in the commission of multiple federal felonies.

    4
  31. Pylon says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    Isn’t it also a violation if Trump uses his own money but doesn’t report it? That’s what the talking head lawyers were saying on CNN.

    1
  32. SKI says:
  33. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Pylon:

    The campaign committee / campaign is required to report the contribution from the candidate. The candidate him/herself is not.

    2
  34. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @rachel:

    I’ve been looking everywhere for a comment from Clinton that I saw earlier, and can not find it anywhere now. It was exceedingly apropos. She said:

    I may overdose on popcorn

    😀

    3
  35. An Interested Party says:

    The way you’re writing, a person might think Trump was out there with his phone and pen changing laws all by himself. Or violating court orders. Or using the IRS to target his political opponents.

    So you’re that little kid caught with your hand in the cookie jar and your defense is, “But mommy, look what he did (allegedly)!” Now there’s a compelling argument…

    Why did the Obama and Hillary camp spy and try to steal the election, even from ol Bernie?

    Oh sweetie…speaking of childish arguments…

    Is it too much to ask for better trolls around here? What we have now is pathetic…

    7
  36. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Cohen further admits that he did this under the direction and with the knowledge of “a candidate for Federal office” that is obviously his former client Donald Trump.

    To play devil’s advocate for TM and the boyos just for a bit, why do you think it’s so obvious that that “candidate” must be Trump? As I noted in a previous thread, I could just as easily been Killary–especially since she’s now talked her pet lawyer, Lanny Davis, into providing Cohen’s defense. But it could just as easily be Johnson, Jill Stein, or even Bernie; all of them had advantage to gain from having news of this “illegal” contribution leak to the press. It’s probably only due to the efforts of the courageous Russian bots and election tampering crew that the news stayed suppressed as long as it did. MAGA!

    2
  37. SKI says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    The campaign committee / campaign is required to report the contribution from the candidate. The candidate him/herself is not.

    True but I’m not sure that is a distinction with a difference in this case.
    If any candidate deliberately directs their campaign to not include their contribution in the disclosure, you are back at personal liability.

    1
  38. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kylopod:

    The weird thing is, I could almost see Trump’s pathological lying becoming a defense of him here: since he’s always making shit up, this (inadvertent) confession is worth nothing. He’s just saying whatever he thinks will save his ass, and its truth is just as questionable as anything else he says.

    Ironic, yes? A lawyer with good ability to tell a story (i.e. someone whose name is Italian sounding) might be able to argue this effectively.

    Good thing Trump doesn’t know anybody like that.

  39. @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    Given the timing and the other information that has been provided in the pleadings that have been released in the case, it’s obvious that the candidate in question is/was Trump.

    1
  40. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    Fortunately, he’s both too stupid and too duplicitous to have done so.

    Isn’t there also the possibility (however remote) that he didn’t actually have the cash at hand to do so? He paid back Cohen over an extended period of time, IIRC 3 or 4 months.

    3
  41. @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    Also there would be no rational reason for someone running against Trump to want to suppress the Daniels or McDougal story.

    1
  42. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Doug Mataconis: True enough, and I was only playing devil’s advocate for the elephant, but I fully expect that someone somewhere is trying to cobble together that type of an argument for Fox News, Mark Levin, or Rush.

    ETA: Beyond that, it’s no more implausible than most of the BS that’s been coming out of SHS’s mouth during press briefings.

    2
  43. Kathy says:

    Uh Oh! David Pecker just turned state evidence in exchange for immunity.

    I’m reminded of a song by Queen:

    And another one’s gone
    And Another one’s gone
    Another one bites the dust
    Hey, I’m gonna get you, too
    Another one bites the dust

    2
  44. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @SKI:

    If any candidate deliberately directs their campaign to not include their contribution in the disclosure, you are back at personal liability.

    True, but good luck proving that one 🙂

    2
  45. SKI says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    True, but good luck proving that one

    A smart candidate would indeed make it hard.
    Trump? Would confess during a national tv interview…

    2
  46. Pylon says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    See the “cash??” question by Trump in the Cohen tape. Plus Cohen’s sworn evidence. If all they have is that, and Trump doesn’t swear contrary evidence, I say they have made out a case.

    In any event, the money first came from Cohen through an equity line on his house, and then was repaid by Trump (interest free it seems), so Trump’s lying about that anyway.

  47. grumpy realist says:

    @Facebones: …and as much.

    I think that a lot of the people who are attracted to Trump like him because he acts the way they secretly want to AND GETS AWAY WITH IT. Adultery, groping women, being a jerk to everyone, insisting on loyalty to himself and never providing anything back. Plus he’s rich, rich, rich and can do anything he wants. Right?

    It really is the ego of a spoiled 6 year old who never grew up. The Trumpenproletariat is the percentage of the U.S. population that is screaming because it can’t do the same.

    Which says quite a bit about their mental maturity, doesn’t it?

    3
  48. teve tory says:

    @Kathy: yeah i was just reading that. David Pecker is getting immunity to tell investigators about Trump.

    Trumpers’ Burden is about to get a little heavier.

    1
  49. teve tory says:

    Ian Millhiser

    Verified account

    @imillhiser

    It’s been a long, difficult day, everyone. But let’s all take a moment to be thankful that we didn’t give the power of the presidency to someone who once used a personal email address to send a work email.

    5:30 PM – 21 Aug 2018

    https://twitter.com/imillhiser/status/1032062519718936578

    6
  50. Kathy says:

    @teve tory:

    This is really good. The dominoes are falling. I figure there were more people involved in the illegal campaign violations than just El Cheeto and Cohen. Most don’t want to get in trouble over it, and selling out their orange boss seems like a good idea; these people are not running for reelection, after all.

    Pecker’s big, because he’s been close to Trump for years. He must know much, aside from the campaign matters.

    This explains why the Mafia has such stringent rules against talking to the authorities. You just can’t run a corrupt business for long if people talk. Fortunately Mafia enforcement methods are not available to Trump.

    1
  51. gVOR08 says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    And then we need to find every way we can to fck the Russians. They need to bleed for this.

    What would the cyber equivalent of a horse’s head in Putin’s bed be?

    2
  52. gVOR08 says:

    @CSK: I saw something that convictions of Cohen and Manafort blows out the whole Qanon narrative and they’re all scrambling around trying to salvage it.

  53. gVOR08 says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    Fortunately, he’s both too stupid and too duplicitous to have done so. He instead conspired with Cohen to have Cohen make an illegal contribution AND to reimburse him for it.

    He should have asked for legal advice from his personal lawyer. Oh wait…

    3
  54. Jen says:

    I’ll remind everyone that one of Candidate Trump’s main bragging claims was how small his campaign staff was. I remember thinking at the time that there was no way he could really be running a campaign of that size with–if I’m remembering correctly–somewhere around 70 to a few hundred people.

    THIS is why. Campaign finance is not that hard for people in politics to understand–it can be very fussy (candidates who want to spend their own money on a campaign have to go through a process, you can’t just start paying for things out of pocket), and there are a lot of rules, sure.

    I had a feeling there were probably violations happening galore, because the rules are very different than a business. The fact that there are people on this board trying to defend this activity (“but it was his money!” etc.) demonstrates this fact.

    My guess is there are probably more FEC violations of varying levels of importance from the Trump campaign.

    Even candidates that have pros running their campaign finances make mistakes (excess contributions are a big one).

    None of this makes what was done by Trump and Cohen any less illegal.

    1
  55. gVOR08 says:

    He is a man who engaged in a conspiracy to illegally influence the outcome of a Presidential election by illegally suppressing information. As such, he is an existential threat to the Republic.

    True enough, but I’m not sure I see what changed. He, along with the Republican Party, was an existential threat last month. We have better evidence with Cohen’s plea, but we pretty much knew this last month. The base don’t care. The campaign finance violation is going to sound pretty technical, and trivial, to the average “undecided” voter. This certainly isn’t going to get Congressional Republicans to do anything. Mueller must feel gratified by the successful results, but he’s going to keep doing what he was doing. FOX at al will spin this into nothing, and the supposedly liberal MSM will just move on to the next squirrel.

    Booman has a good piece up, The System Can’t Deal With Trump Piecemeal. Until the Mueller Report lands, and then only if there’s a pretty good smoking gun, nothing is really going to change.

    1
  56. Kylopod says:

    @gVOR08:

    I saw something that convictions of Cohen and Manafort blows out the whole Qanon narrative and they’re all scrambling around trying to salvage it.

    I have not followed QAnon closely, but my impression of it is that it’s suitably wacky enough that it can easily withstand just about any facts thrown at it. Mueller is essentially in the role of double agent (think Snape from Harry Potter), and to that end sacrifices must be made to keep up appearances. I suspect that anyone dumb enough to believe this theory in the first place won’t have any trouble accommodating the latest news into it.

    1
  57. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Gustopher:

    So, why is there a belief that the president cannot be indicted? Did I miss that chunk of the constitution in my US History class?

    It comes down to Article 1, Section 3 of the constitution:

    Judgment in cases of impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States: but the party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to indictment, trial, judgment and punishment, according to law.

    Some interpret the fact it says “the party convicted” rather than “the party accused” to mean they’re not “subject to indictment, trial…” until after an impeachment conviction.

  58. grumpy realist says:

    @Kylopod: Somehow we have to get contrails and the Illuminati into it.

    Michael, can we call upon you to unleash your imagination?

  59. Kathy says:

    Politico has an interesting article (rather long read) about a candidate for NY Attorney General willing to take down Trump.

    I share some of the misgivings raised by critics, but I’m willing to chance it. Removing Trump is an emergency matter.

    1
  60. Kylopod says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Somehow we have to get contrails and the Illuminati into it.

    It’s already got satanists, pedophiles, and the Rothschilds. What more do you want?

  61. gVOR08 says:

    @grumpy realist: Those are chemtrails, not contrails.

  62. gVOR08 says:

    Some weeks ago Trump tweeted out of the blue that he didn’t pay the Russian hackers. Which seemed to imply someone did. In that context I find it interesting that it was apparently the Trump Organization that reimbursed Cohen for the hush money, not Trump personally.

  63. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kathy: Trump doesn’t have either the infrastructure or the gravitas to use Mafia techniques. He’s not a psychopath, merely a loon.

    1
  64. Kylopod says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    Trump doesn’t have either the infrastructure or the gravitas to use Mafia techniques.

    Maybe not, but describing what he does as “Mafioso” isn’t just an analogy, since he’s got real ties to actual mobsters, going back decades. It’s the world he inhabits and knows all too well.

    He’s not a psychopath, merely a loon.

    You don’t need to be smart or sophisticated in order to be a psychopath.

    1
  65. An Interested Party says:

    Pecker’s big, because he’s been close to Trump for years.

    I guess now he can join Cohen and Omarosa on the Fuck Trump Express…I’m sure that train will fill to capacity eventually…

    1
  66. Scott O says:

    @Lava Land: Commenting while intoxicated
    usually doesn’t go well.

    3
  67. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Scott O:

    With those people, I find that it’s essentially impossible to differentiate between drunk and just mind blowingly stupid.

    1
  68. grumpy realist says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Drunk, there’s the possibility that they could do better when they’re sober. Continuous stupidity….well, usually the only solution to that is the one Mama Nature often offers–namely, death.

    (There’s a great article over at Peter North’s blog at present making the argument that one of the reasons the U.K. government has been so clownish in its Brexit preparations is because as part of the EU, all the intelligent work was done by the EU side, leaving the U.K. government and media complex the opportunity to never have to do any actual work while pretending to rule. Hence the U.K. government/media devolved into a population of idiots playing ego games with each other, and hence the resultant chaos when they are now confronted with having to actually come up with a plan and actually govern. North wants Brexit because he thinks the U.K. needs to experience the geographic equivalent of “tough love”, but he readily admits it isn’t going to be pretty.)

  69. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kylopod: I don’t recall “smart” or “sophisticated” and synonyms for “infrastructure” or “gravitas.” Nor have I ever used either of those terms to describe either Trump or psychopaths.

  70. Kylopod says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: Whatever. Nothing about how you described Trump is mutually exclusive with him being a psychopath, which is simply a personality disorder, it doesn’t require any special talents or resources. Here is a checklist of common psychopathic traits. Tell me none of this sounds like Trump:

    – glib and superficial charm
    – grandiose (exaggeratedly high) estimation of self
    – need for stimulation
    – pathological lying
    – cunning and manipulativeness
    – lack of remorse or guilt
    – shallow affect (superficial emotional responsiveness)
    – callousness and lack of empathy
    – parasitic lifestyle
    – poor behavioral controls
    – sexual promiscuity
    – early behavior problems
    – lack of realistic long-term goals
    – impulsivity
    – irresponsibility
    – failure to accept responsibility for own actions
    – many short-term marital relationships
    – juvenile delinquency
    – revocation of conditional release
    – criminal versatility

    http://www.minddisorders.com/Flu-Inv/Hare-Psychopathy-Checklist.html

    1
  71. TM01 says:

    @An Interested Party:

    The way you’re writing, a person might think Trump was out there with his phone and pen changing laws all by himself. Or violating court orders. Or using the IRS to target his political opponents.

    So you’re that little kid caught with your hand in the cookie jar and your defense is, “But mommy, look what he did (allegedly)!” Now there’s a compelling argument…

    Huh? Allegedly?

    You Obama didn’t didn’t Violate Norms by violating court orders?

    Really?

    You’re ignorant enough to think that?

    1
  72. TM01 says:

    I’ve said the gist of this, but I’m not as good of a wordsmith as the guy who wrote this:

    “Do you know what Trump ought to do? Announce that he’ll soon be signing an EO that requires Congress to publish a list of names of every single one of their member who has ever used taxpayer dollars to pay hush money to cover up affairs or settle sexual harassment lawsuits. And then leave for the weekend.

    #Genius

    Norms(tm) are Congress using a Super Secret Congressional Sexual Harassment Hush Fund.

    1
  73. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @TM01:

    Repeat after me:

    OBAMA IS NO LONGER PRESIDENT. THE CLOWN CURRENTLY OCCUPYING THE WHITE HOUSE IS MY FAULT, BECAUSE I VOTED FOR HIM.

    Or do you really want to continue with your “Trump is just as bad as Obama” shtick?

    1
  74. JohnSF says:

    Well now.

    TrumpOrg CFO Weisselberg has an immunity deal.
    Also Pecker.
    Cue hilarity.

    Trump is so toast you could spread marmite on him.

  75. Matt says:

    @gVOR08: The Russians have an advantage in cyber warfare as they have been turning a blind eye to organized hackers for decades there. As long as the criminal hacker groups don’t mess with Putin’s friends AKA “Russia’s friends” they can get away with basically anything. Whole game services have been knocked offline simply because a Russian or two was annoyed by the developers (for example Eve online has been a target many times). Financial institutions lose tens of millions a year to Russian hackers (working for organized crime elements). What that means is that Russia has thousands of well practiced hackers who control millions of zombies. A cyber attack on Russia that is traced back the the USA would create a massive mess as that would make it the hackers patriotic duty to defend the motherland aka hack the shit out of US targets. Any sort of leash that exists now would be gone in such a scenario.

    @Kylopod: Well considering Qanon started off as troll bait on 4chan……

  76. Kylopod says:

    @Lava Land: Hours after the Orlando shooting, then the largest mass shooting in American history, Trump tweeted: “Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism, I don’t want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!”

    So after a mass shooting that left 50 people dead, Trump’s immediate response was to congratulate himself, for allegedly “being right” (which he wasn’t). No expression of horror for what happened, no word of sympathy for the victims. He made it all about himself. That is the very essence of a psychopath.

    Please refer me to one moment–just one!–in which Obama said something showing such callous indifference to the victims of a mass shooting or a similarly deadly event. I want an exact quote.

    1