So-called Trump Campaign Finance Violations Are a Fallacy

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Democrat leaders and their allies in the media have momentarily dropped the Trump-Russia collusion narrative from their playbooks and are instead talking about purported campaign finance violations.

In fact, some Democrats such as Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y. are attempting to characterize their latest campaign finance meme as constituting an impeachable offense.

To claim that the payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels and Playboy playmate Karen McDougal would be impeachable offenses, one would have to ignore both the law and historical practices.

During former President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, some real and arguably more serious violations of campaign finance law were treated as civil matters, resulting only in penalties paid to the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

According to the Washington Post, in 2008 Obama’s campaign allowed donors to use untraceable prepaid credit cards, which are capable of being utilized to evade campaign finance restrictions. Obama’s campaign additionally failed to employ basic verification and security procedures to prevent illegal donations to the campaign.

Years after the 2008 election, the Obama campaign paid a $375,000 fine, one of the largest ever levied against a presidential campaign but otherwise walked away from the violation. Impeachment was never a topic of discussion.

Despite claims by panelists on cable news shows, the current Trump campaign finance narrative contains serious flaws when it comes to the law.

According to the Federal Election Campaign Act, in order to constitute violations the payments to the two women would have to have been implemented “for the purpose of influencing any election for Federal Office” and not for a personal use.

The law stipulates that a personal use, as opposed to a campaign use, occurs when funds are “used to fulfill any commitment, obligation, or expense of a person that would exist irrespective of the candidate’s election campaign.”

President Trump’s company, which is branded with his name, his celebrity status, and his need to protect his family, all point to the personal component of the payments as opposed to a campaign related one. Moreover, the necessity for the payments preceded his announcement to run for president.

Former FEC Commissioner Hans von Spakovsky is in agreement, having told Fox News, “The blackmail threat by Daniels and McDougal to reveal their claims would exist whether or not Trump was running for office.”

Former FEC Chairman Bradley Smith told Fox News, “Even if it [the payment] was intended to have some influence on the campaign, that’s not the standard. The standard is: ‘Does the obligation exist because you’re running for office?’”

Smith wrote in the National Review that the president’s “alleged decade-old affairs occurred long before he became a candidate for president and were not caused by his run for president.”

As Smith noted, engaging in activities such as polling, purchasing ads, and printing bumper stickers are expenditures that seek to influence an election, however “paying hush money to silence allegations of decade-old affairs is not.”

In a somewhat similar but stronger case, which involved former presidential candidate and Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards, prosecutors attempted to prove that payments made during a presidential run were intended to assist Edwards’s electoral chances, claiming that they were made to protect his public image. Yet, in that case the prosecution could not persuade a jury that Edwards had made campaign related payments. After an acquittal of the main charge and a mistrial on other charges, the case was not pursued by the Justice Department, and Edwards was never retried.

Seeing a similar result with the case against President Trump, von Spakovsky wrote in a Fox News editorial, “Convicting Donald Trump of a criminal campaign finance violation will be extremely difficult, if not impossible. Just as Edwards was found not guilty, the same is likely to happen to President Trump if he is charged while he is president or after he leaves the White House.”

In a potential prosecution of the president, an additional problem involves evidence of the president’s mindset at the time the payments were made. The level of intent that must be proved in a campaign finance prosecution is that the alleged misconduct is committed knowingly and willfully, which is an extremely challenging element of the case for prosecutors, who must prove that a defendant intended to violate the law.

Because the Federal Election Commission does not consider payments made to a mistress to be an expenditure covered by the federal campaign law, it is not possible for a defendant to have made such a payment with knowledge that it was an unlawful violation.

In other words, the president cannot be charged with a knowing and willful violation of the law under these facts, since the Federal Election Commission and legal experts who served on the commission determined that such payments are not campaign finance violations in the first place.

 

The Democrats Sham Lawsuit

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After more than a year, scores of interviews, mountains of documents, raids on witnesses, and tens of millions of dollars squandered away, there is still no evidence to support the allegation that President Donald Trump was involved in any type of “Russian collusion.”

In what appears to be a desperate attempt to get the “L” off its forehead, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) has filed a lawsuit against the Russian government, the Trump campaign, and WikiLeaks, putting forth a wild conspiracy theory to try and divert attention away from its embarrassing loss in the 2016 presidential election.

A host of federal laws that were supposedly violated are cited in the suit, including the Wiretap Act, Stored Communications Act, Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and tried-and-true fave of the left, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).

The lawsuit is a redux of the 1972 DNC lawsuit during the Watergate investigation against then-President Richard Nixon’s reelection committee, which ended in 1974 when the Dems took a settlement of $750,000 from the Nixon campaign on the same day Nixon vacated the Oval Office.

In a statement contained in a press release, current DNC Chairman Tom Perez publicized the suit using identical phrases that CNN and MSNBC guests and hosts have been parroting for almost two years.

Perez claimed the lawsuit was filed because “Russia launched an all-out assault on our democracy” in an act of “unprecedented treachery.”

The timing of the legal maneuver is a huge tell. Recent news coverage has been splattered with stories about the much-anticipated book tour of former FBI Director James Comey, which has not exactly been going according to plan and has even managed to elicit its share of ridicule and disdain.

Two news stories involving the Obama appointed Inspector General have cracked the liberal media firewall: 1) a criminal referral on the fired former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe; and 2) the launch of a new investigation into Comey over the release of his self-incriminating memos.

Meanwhile President Trump’s poll numbers have hit a high-water mark and seem poised to go even higher with the historic news that North Korea may be willing to denuclearize. At the same time the Democrat generic ballot numbers appear to be falling.

Adding to a growing political anxiety for the DNC is the fact that the organization is running short of cash. It is for this reason and so many others that the group has seemingly adopted the Saul Alinsky strategy of pinning your political rival with the dirty deed you have committed.

Audaciously, this is the same DNC that rigged its own primary, as former interim DNC chairperson Donna Brazile has documented. It is also the same DNC that colluded with the Russians for real on the DNC bought-and-paid for fake dossier.

Legally speaking, the Democrats may rue the day that they filed this action. In civil lawsuits, defendants are entitled to conduct discovery, including having the ability to subpoena the production of documents and other evidence and depose witnesses under oath.

Republicans would no doubt jump at the chance to subpoena the DNC computer server and obtain the communications and documents that show how, in its own primary process, the DNC swindled the supporters of 2016 presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

The DNC repeatedly refused to allow the FBI to access its server so that law enforcement could verify the allegation that Russia had hacked the server during the presidential campaign. Instead the DNC reached a dubious arrangement with the FBI in which a third-party company conducted forensic investigations on the server and shared details with the FBI.

The list of documents and witnesses involved with the purchase of the fake dossier and the subsequent FISA abuse scandal is lengthy and includes the names of McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, Bruce Ohr, Nellie Ohr, and Glenn Simpson, all of whom could be deposed as a result of the DNC lawsuit.

Additionally, defendants in the suit would be able to bring a host of counterclaims including ones that might involve defamation, conspiracy to defraud, and federal election money laundering.

Allegations that the Hillary Clinton campaign laundered millions of dollars in contributions from big name donors could also potentially become a part of the discovery effort.

As reporter Amy Chozick outlines in her book, “Chasing Hillary,” during the very same time period that the DNC lawsuit contends the Trump campaign was collaborating with Russia, the Clinton campaign was engaging in an effort to elevate President Trump’s candidacy and tie him to the mainstream of the Republican Party.

Some Democrats are wise enough to see that the DNC lawsuit poses a whole slew of problems for them, as illustrated in the comments below:

— California Rep. Jackie Speier described the suit in a CNN interview as an “ill-conceived” idea that is “not in the interest of the American people.”

— Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the legal action is a “silly distraction.”

— Gloria Borger, the reflexively liberal chief political analyst at CNN, said that the DNC lawsuit is a “100% stunt” designed to “raise money,” adding that “they want to keep the story moving.”

The DNC needs to come to grips with the reality that it was a main player in the rigging of the 2016 presidential election, handing the nomination for president to a flawed candidate, who was under criminal investigation at the time of her nomination and who flat-out lost an election that diehard Democrats believed she already had in the bag.