Speaking with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani really messed up. He accidentally made the mistake of admitting that Trump committed a crime, which he had previously denied. He also set forth a legal argument that was completely false and therefore he watered down the Trump team’s previous denials.
In talking to ABC, Giuliani tried to argue that Michael Cohen’s hush-money payments made on Trump’s behalf could not be considered campaign finance violations if they served any kind of personal purpose, in addition to a campaign purpose.
“It has to be for the sole purpose. If there’s another purpose, it’s no longer a campaign contribution — if there’s a personal purpose.”
He then wrongly said that the failed prosecution of John Edwards for a campaign finance violation supported his point:
“It’s not a contribution if it’s intended for a purpose in addition to the campaign purpose. In the case of Edwards’s lover Rielle Hunter, right, the payment of $1.1 million was intended to shut her up and was intended to avoid embarrassment with Edwards’s wife and with his children.”
But what Giuliani said is simply not true.
The law does not say that a campaign finance legal violation has taken place only if the “sole purpose” of it is to affect a campaign.
The law says a campaign contribution is:
“Any gift, subscription, loan, advance, or deposit of money or anything of value made by any person for the purpose of influencing any election for Federal office.”
So there is no exception for contributions that were also for some personal purpose. Which means the President of the United States has hired a lawyer who went on national television and misstated the law. Not good.
The law says anything with a campaign benefit is a contribution, and so the Edwards case doesn’t help Giuliani’s argument at all. In fact, it hurts it.
George Conway, Kellyanne’s husband, co-authored a Washington Post op-ed that was published last Friday. It said, in part:
“Edwards repeatedly argued that the payments were not campaign contributions because they were not made exclusively to further his campaign. The judge rejected this argument as a matter of law, ruling that a payment to a candidate’s extramarital sexual partner is a campaign contribution if “one of” the reasons the payment is made is to influence the election.”
“As a legal matter, that aspect of the Edwards case is what matters now — and it’s damning for Trump. It provides a precedent that other courts could follow in any prosecution arising out of the hush-money schemes Trump paid: The president could face criminal charges for conspiring with Cohen to make the payments because the evidence shows the payments were made, at least in part, for campaign purposes.”
Why is Trump’s lawyer citing a case that actually makes the president appear guilty of a crime? Not good.
Giuliani and Trump have now admitted to the president’s involvement in the hush money payments.
Originally Giuliani argued that the payments were personal, and thus not criminal. He said a few months ago:
“I think neither one of them [Cohen or Trump] saw it as a campaign thing; they thought of it as a personal thing. This was for personal reasons. This was — the president had been hurt personally . . . so much and the first lady, by some of the false allegations . . . It was to save their marriage — not their marriage, so much, but their reputation.”
And now Giuliani is saying that the payments were not solely personal but, instead, served a dual purpose that included the campaign.
“It’s not a contribution if it’s intended for a personal purpose in addition to the campaign purpose,” he told ABC.
In other words, the president’s lawyer said that there was a campaign purpose, as well as a personal purpose.
Since there WAS a campaign purpose, it WAS a violation of federal election law.
Which means that Giuliani has now admitted on national television that his client, the president, committed a crime by violating campaign finance laws. Which is a felony, and an impeachable offense.
Trump is so out of it, and so ignorant, that he doesn’t even know that his own lawyer is helping federal prosecutors make their criminal case against him. Sad.
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.