The stable genius Donald Trump and his world-class lawyer/fixer Michael Cohen probably would be shocked to learn that the United States has federal laws that say how political campaign money can be spent, because based on their actions it seems that they don’t know that such laws even exist.
The federal agency in charge of enforcing the campaign finance laws is called the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and they have their hands full trying to stay on top of all of the legal violations perpetrated by the Trump campaign and Cohen.
First, of course, there is the $130,000 question: Who paid Stormy Daniels this amount of money, why did they pay it, and where did the money come from?
Listening to Trump and Cohen answer these questions is like listening to Abbott and Costello do their famous “Who’s On First?” routine. They don’t seem to want to give a straight answer, and it’s left to us to figure out if it’s because they are dumb, dishonest, or trying to cover up crimes. (Or all of the above.)
The fact is that if Michael Cohen paid the $130,000 it is probably an illegal campaign contribution, but we’ll still have to wait for the courts to decide the facts of the case since Cohen hasn’t even been indicted (yet).
And now comes another report of a major campaign finance legal violation by Cohen and Trump: ABC has reported that some of the legal expenses for Cohen — President Donald Trump’s personal attorney — were paid by the Trump campaign.
According to ABC:
Federal Election Commission records show three payments (totaling $228,000) made from the Trump campaign to a firm representing Cohen. The “legal consulting” payments were made to McDermott Will and Emery — a law firm where Cohen’s attorney Stephen Ryan is a partner — between October 2017 and January 2018. It was those three payments that were related to Cohen’s legal defense.
Cohen has said that he did not have a formal role in the Trump campaign, and it is illegal to spend campaign funds for personal use – defined by the FEC as payments for expenses “that would exist irrespective of the candidate’s campaign or responsibilities as a federal officeholder.”
Once again, it appear that Trump and Cohen are blurring the lines between what is legal and what is not.
“They’re on shaky legal ground,” said Stephen Spaulding, from the nonprofit watchdog group Common Cause. “It sounds like they are really pushing the envelope … If the campaign were to say they are campaign-related payments, then maybe it’s okay to use campaign funds. But he can’t have it both ways.”
The truth is that Cohen has so many legal troubles and lawsuits against him that it is hard to keep track of them all. He is being investigated by Mueller’s team for being involved in collusion with Russia, he is being investigated by the FBI for a number of crimes, and on top of that he is being sued by Stormy Daniels for defamation.
It’s no wonder that Cohen wants his legal bills paid by Trump’s campaign donors. Trump himself has set a precedent for doing that. They both seem to have an attitude where it is acceptable to have other people pay their bills for them.
Perhaps it is time for lawyer Cohen to do some legal research. If he does, he will discover that what he and the president have been doing is against the law. As to whether or not he can “fix” this problem, only time will tell.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.