Thursday, December 13, 2018

Why Trump didn't break campaign finance laws

Anybody who thinks President Trump will ever be convicted of breaking campaign finance laws by paying off two women with whom it’s alleged he had affairs is dreaming. What he did is not a crime. Not even close. That’s not to say that he won’t be indicted. The Trump-haters are just liable to do anything.

But Michael Cohen pled guilty to breaking campaign finance laws, didn’t he? He did, but he pled guilty to a crimeless crime. There are two important points why what Trump did was not a crime. First, the money paid out was paid from his personal account. Second, the money was moving away from the candidate, not toward him. In other words, no one donated to his campaign illegally by his paying off alleged mistresses.

The prosecutors in the Cohen case said that Cohen and Trump criminally conspired to illegally influence the campaign. The fact is Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal conspired to influence the election. It wasn’t necessarily illegal. It’s called dirty politics. By now we’re used to October surprises.

Allow me to frame this in a way that’s easy for everyone to understand. Had Karen McDougal come forward with leaked medical records that showed Trump had a heart condition no one would be questioning his right to pay her to keep that information quiet. The fact that this case involves sex makes it juicy copy for the mainstream media, but it does not change the basic principles of the case. A private citizen has every right to protect his privacy. Being a candidate for president doesn’t change that. Bill Clinton understood this when he refused to release his medical records.

If failing to allow your personal life to become public is somehow misconstrued as illegally influencing a political campaign then name me one presidential candidate who hasn’t broken the law. And if the assumption is that any private matter that may influence voters has to be made public then good luck finding willing candidates to run.

I hear pundits all the time saying a case like this has never been adjudicated. Perhaps they’ve forgotten all about John Edwards. He was indicted for spending over a million dollars in campaign funds to keep a mistress quiet. Even though this was campaign money, the prosecutors could not get a conviction. That clearly appeared to be a violation of the law if for no other reason than he didn’t properly report the campaign expense. Still, he was let off the hook.

As the mainstream media obsess over nailing Trump on campaign finance charges, whatever happened to Russia? I thought that was the focus of the Mueller investigation. Notice how Mueller punted this to the Southern District of New York. One would suspect if Mueller ever thought he could get a Trump conviction on campaign finance infractions he would’ve kept the case in house. The fact that he didn’t speaks volumes.

I have been one of the staunchest believers that President Trump should leave the Mueller investigation alone. Now I’m not so sure. We’re hearing rumblings of Mueller heading for Trump family finances. His head is bobbing back in forth in the driver’s seat he’s so far off the main road. If he takes a detour to Trump Tower I wouldn’t blame the president one bit for pulling the plug.

We have to keep separated in our minds the Mueller investigation and the SDNY investigation. They’re not the same. The prosecutors in New York seem hell-bent on doing everything within their power to make Trump look bad. Let’s hope Robert Mueller is taking a higher road.

Phil Valentine is the host of the award-winning talk radio show, 
The Phil Valentine Show.

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