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By Sunday, Dec 9, 2018 Viewpoints 16

[Prosecutors] emphasized that Mr. Cohen had implicated the president in payments to two women during the campaign to conceal affairs that they said they had with Mr. Trump. “Cohen himself has now admitted, with respect to both payments, he acted in coordination with and at the direction of Individual-1,” the prosecutors wrote. “Individual-1” is how Mr. Trump is referred to in the document. [The payments violated campaign finance laws.]

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/07/nyregion/michael-cohen-sentence.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage


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  1. Jim Balfanz says:

    Highlighted at the bottom of this article are the two paragraphs which clearly show the extreme bias depending up whether one is a Democrat or a Republican…..
    Andrew C. McCarthy: Why Trump is likely to be indicted by Manhattan US Attorney
    By Andrew McCarthy | Fox News

    Former US attorney Andrew McCarthy on Cohen sentencing memo
    Prosecutors say former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen deserves substantial prison time, despite his cooperation.
    The major takeaway from the 40-page sentencing memorandum filed by federal prosecutors Friday for Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former personal attorney, is this: The president is very likely to be indicted on a charge of violating federal campaign finance laws.
    It has been obvious for some time that President Trump is the principal subject of the investigation still being conducted by the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.
    Cohen earlier pleaded guilty to multiple counts of business and tax fraud, violating campaign finance law, and making false statements to Congress regarding unsuccessful efforts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.
    Yes, Cohen has stated he did the hands-on work in orchestrating hush-money payments to two women who claim to have had sexual liaisons with Trump many years ago (liaisons Trump denies).
    But when Cohen pleaded guilty in August, prosecutors induced him to make an extraordinary statement in open court: the payments to the women were made “in coordination with and at the direction of” the candidate for federal office – Donald Trump.
    Prosecutors would not have done this if the president was not on their radar screen. Indeed, if the president was not implicated, I suspect they would not have prosecuted Cohen for campaign finance violations at all. Those charges had a negligible impact on the jail time Cohen faces, which is driven by the more serious offenses of tax and financial institution fraud, involving millions of dollars.
    Moreover, campaign finance infractions are often settled by payment of an administrative fine, not turned into felony prosecutions. To be sure, federal prosecutors in New York City have charged them as felonies before – most notably in 2014 against Dinesh D’Souza, whom Trump later pardoned.
    In marked contrast, though, when it was discovered that Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign was guilty of violations involving nearly $2 million – an amount that dwarfs the $280,000 in Cohen’s case – the Obama Justice Department decided not to prosecute. Instead, the matter was quietly disposed of by a $375,000 fine by the Federal Election Commission.
    Nevertheless, the sentencing memo in Cohen’s case reads like an ode to campaign finance laws. Unlike other types of pleadings, which can be dry and legalistic, sentencing memoranda are meant to persuade the sentencing judge, and they often read like dramatic jury arguments.
    This one is no exception, urging that campaign finance laws are vital to election integrity – “painstakingly” designed by Congress “to promote transparency and prevent wealthy individuals” from fueling the “public cynicism” that “the political process belongs to the rich and powerful.”
    In the four corners of this case, these words apply to Cohen. But President Trump cannot feel too comfortable upon reading them.
    Nor can the Trump legal team take solace when the campaign finance charges to which Cohen pleaded guilty are scrutinized. Thus far, the team has been dismissive, noting that campaign finance law has different standards for a candidate than for other donors.
    Contributors such as Cohen made were limited in 2016 to a $2,700 donation, but there is no limit on a candidate’s spending. Thus, the argument goes, even if the hush-money payments vastly exceeded Cohen’s legal ceiling, Trump himself could have made them legally.
    There are flaws in this theory.
    To begin with, the campaign finance laws do not just prescribe limits on spending; they mandate disclosure. This is a leitmotif of the sentencing memo: Congress demanded transparency. A candidate may spend unlimited amounts on the campaign, but the amounts spent must be reported to the Federal Election Commission.
    The sentencing memo for Cohen argues that the hush money payments were not merely unreported. It states that Cohen and the Trump organization – the president’s company – went to great lengths to conceal them by fraudulent bookkeeping.
    Equally significantly, Cohen was not charged with merely making illegal donations. He was charged in the first campaign finance count with causing a company to make illegal donations.
    This was the offense centering on Playboy model Karen McDougal. It involves David Pecker, a longtime friend of the president and of Cohen. Pecker runs American Media, Inc., which controls the National Enquirer.
    According to prosecutors, Pecker arranged with Cohen that the Enquirer would buy McDougal’s story for $150,000 and bury it. Although it was contemplated that Cohen would reimburse Pecker (and then be reimbursed by Trump), the reimbursement did not happen.
    Cohen, therefore, pleaded guilty not to making his own excessive contribution but to causing a third party to make an illegal contribution.
    Cohen says he was operating at Trump’s direction. Logically, then, if this is true and Cohen caused the third-party illegal contribution, so did the president.
    Notably: prosecutors have given Pecker and another American Media executive, Dylan Howard, immunity from prosecution. Do you think prosecutors did that to tighten up the case against Cohen? I don’t.
    As for the second campaign finance charge, that involves an illegal payment by Cohen – the $130,000 to Stephanie Clifford (who goes by the stage name “Stormy Daniels”). There are two things to bear in mind about it.
    First, as we’ve just seen, it is a felony to cause another person to make an illegal contribution. Since, under the claim by prosecutors Trump was directing Cohen, Trump could be accused of having caused Cohen to make an illegal payment.
    The fact that Trump could have made the payment himself without violating the law does not excuse allegedly causing Cohen to violate the law.
    Trump’s point that he had no personal limit on spending is also undermined by the facts that (a) the payment was not reported, and (b) the purpose of the transaction was to distance him from the payment (which is why the non-disclosure agreement employs pseudonyms rather than referring to Trump and Clifford by name).
    Second, the violation to which Cohen pleaded guilty is not merely making illegal expenditures; it also includes making such expenditures “in cooperation, consultation, or concert, with or at the request or suggestion of, a candidate.” (Section 30116(a)(7)(A) of the election laws).
    Again, this is why Cohen was pushed at his guilty plea proceeding to state that he acted “in coordination with and at the direction of” Trump. It is an assertion the prosecutors emphasize in the sentencing memo. The thrust of their allegation is that Cohen and Trump are confederates in an illegal contribution that Cohen made only because Trump directed him to do so.
    This is not to suggest that the president is without cards to play. Campaign finance violations have a high proof threshold for intent. President Trump could argue that because there was no spending limit on his contributions, he did not think about the campaign-finance implications, much less willfully violate them.
    There is, furthermore, a significant legal question about whether the hush-money payments here qualify as “in-kind” campaign contributions. There is nothing illegal per se in making a non-disclosure agreement; they are quite common. The criminal law comes into play only if the non-disclosure payment is deemed a donation for purposes of influencing a political campaign.
    Arguably, the payment is not a donation if it was made for an expense that was independent of the campaign – that is, money that would have had to be paid even if there were no campaign.
    Cohen chose to plead guilty and forfeited the right to contest this point. That concession is not binding on Trump. If the president is charged, I expect he would vigorously argue that the payment was not a campaign contribution.
    There are other salient issues to consider. Justice Department guidance holds that a sitting president may not be indicted. If prosecutors in the Southern District of New York believe they have a case against the president, must they hold off until after he is out of office?
    If President Trump were to win re-election, he would not be out of office until 2024, when the five-year statute of limitations on a 2016 offense would have lapsed.
    More importantly, do campaign finance violations qualify as “high crimes and misdemeanors,” which is the constitutional standard for impeachment? It is hard to imagine an infraction that the Justice Department often elects not to prosecute is sufficiently egregious to rise to that level, but the debate on this point between partisans would be intense.
    Those are all questions for another day. The point for this day is that the Cohen case in New York City is not about Cohen. The president is in peril of being charged.

    Notice the difference…..
    Moreover, campaign finance infractions are often settled by payment of an administrative fine, not turned into felony prosecutions. To be sure, federal prosecutors in New York City have charged them as felonies before – most notably in 2014 against Dinesh D’Souza, whom Trump later pardoned.
    In marked contrast, though, when it was discovered that Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign was guilty of violations involving nearly $2 million – an amount that dwarfs the $280,000 in Cohen’s case – the Obama Justice Department decided not to prosecute. Instead, the matter was quietly disposed of by a $375,000 fine by the Federal Election Commission.

    1. Shawn G. says:

      Fox News- hahaha

      1. Jim Balfanz says:

        Laugh all you want Shawn. Not a peep about the Forbes article below, though. Try getting your news from multiple sources and perhaps you will be able to determine what is really going on — It’s called Politics. And more accurately, there is a name for it – Trump Derangement Syndrome.” Yep, TDS.

      2. Jim Balfanz says:

        …and not a peep about this disparity …..In marked contrast, though, when it was discovered that Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign was guilty of violations involving nearly $2 million – an amount that dwarfs the $280,000 in Cohen’s case – the Obama Justice Department decided not to prosecute. Instead, the matter was quietly disposed of by a $375,000 fine by the Federal Election Commission.

        When all is “said and done,” the result will be a big fat ZERO regarding this issue…. Stay tuned…..

  2. Jim Balfanz says:

    Bottom line: Stay tuned…

  3. Jim Balfanz says:

    Meanwhile, an expert campaign finance lawyer said in an interview published Monday that he is not impressed with the Department of Justice’s evidence that effectively links Trump to campaign finance violations after the recent release of the Cohen sentencing memo.

    Dan Backer, the lawyer, told Forbes that there appears to be no evidence to corroborate the DOJ’s apparent assertion of any illegality on Trump’s part.

    Backer, a veteran campaign counsel, said it is common practice for high-profile individuals and companies to take part in these kinds of payment arrangements. He said Trump is a brand, he has carried out similar payments for years and these so-called “hush-buys” will likely continue.

    “Brand protection is not a campaign contribution,” he told the magazine.

    Prosecutors in New York, where Cohen pleaded guilty in August to campaign finance crimes in connection with those payments, wrote in the filing, “With respect to both payments, Cohen acted with the intent to influence the 2016 presidential election. Cohen coordinated his actions with one or more members of the campaign, including through meetings and phone calls, about the fact, nature, and timing of the payments. In particular, and as Cohen himself has now admitted, with respect to both payments, he acted in coordination with and at the direction of Individual-1.”

    The filing does not name Trump, but references “Individual-1,” who became president in 2017. Trump has not been charged.

    Trump’s lawyers have downplayed the severity of campaign finance crimes, but some Democrats consider it an impeachable offense.

    “The notion that every penny a candidate personally or professionally spends is somehow reportable to the FEC is utter nonsense,” he continued.

    On Sunday, Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the web of federal and state campaign finance laws is so complex that it presents fairness issues.

    “There are thousands and thousands of rules. It’s incredibly complicated, campaign finance,” Paul said. “We have to decide whether or not really criminal penalties are the way we should approach campaign finance.”

    Cohen’s plea does not necessarily indicate that prosecutors could have successfully prosecuted a campaign finance case against Cohen or Trump.

    Andrew C. McCarthy, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, wrote on FoxNews.com that Trump is very likely to be indicted for violating campaign finance laws.

    “If the president was not implicated, I suspect they would not have prosecuted Cohen for campaign finance violations at all. Those charges had a negligible impact on the jail time Cohen faces, which is driven by the more serious offenses of tax and financial institution fraud, involving millions of dollars,” he wrote.

    Cohen is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 12.

  4. George Grumbach says:

    in thinking about this issue I was reminded of the fact that Al Capone went to jail for tax evasion, and that, thereby, justice was served. But maybe this case is different because Mr. Trump has solemnly denied that he ever had sexual relations with the two women Cohen paid off for him in a “simple private transaction.” So it was unfair and unjust to have to pay them off. There was NO CANOODLING!

  5. Jim Balfanz says:

    Federal Judge Opens Discovery Into Clinton Email Usage
    DECEMBER 06, 2018
    Court Excoriates Obama State Department/Justice Department for Possibly Acting in ‘Bad Faith’ and Colluding ‘to Scuttle Public Scrutiny’ of Clinton Private Email Server
    Court Criticizes Current Justice Department for ‘Chicanery’
    District Court Judge Lamberth Orders ‘Proposed Plan and Schedule for Discovery Within Ten Days’
    Discovery Must Also Explore Whether Clinton Intentionally Used Private Email Server to ‘skirt FOIA’
    (Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that, in a ruling excoriating both the U.S. Departments of State and Justice, U.S. District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth has ordered both agencies to join Judicial Watch in submitting a proposed schedule for discovery into whether Hillary Clinton sought to evade the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by using a private email system and whether the State Department acted in “bad faith” by failing to disclose knowledge of the email system. The decision comes in a FOIA lawsuit related to the Benghazi terrorist attack.
    Specially, Lamberth ruled:
    … the Court ORDERS the parties to meet and confer to plan discovery into (a) whether Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email while Secretary of State was an intentional attempt to evade FOIA; (b) whether the State Department’s attempts to settle this case in late 2014 and early 2015 amounted to bad faith; and (c) whether State has adequately searched for records responsive to Judicial Watch’s requests.
    Terming Clinton’s use of her private email system, “one of the gravest modern offenses to government transparency,” Lamberth wrote in his MEMORANDUM OPINION:
    … his [President Barack Obama’s] State and Justice Departments fell far short. So far short that the court questions, even now, whether they are acting in good faith. Did Hillary Clinton use her private email as Secretary of State to thwart this lofty goal [Obama announced standard for transparency]? Was the State Department’s attempt to settle this FOIA case in 2014 an effort to avoid searching – and disclosing the existence of – Clinton’s missing emails? And has State ever adequately searched for records in this case?
    ***
    At best, State’s attempt to pass-off its deficient search as legally adequate during settlement negotiations was negligence born out of incompetence. At worst, career employees in the State and Justice Departments colluded to scuttle public scrutiny of Clinton, skirt FOIA, and hoodwink this Court.
    Turning his attention to the Department of Justice, Lamberth wrote:
    The current Justice Department made things worse. When the government last appeared before the Court, counsel claimed, ‘it is not true to say we misled either Judicial Watch or the Court.’ When accused of ‘doublespeak,’ counsel denied vehemently, feigned offense, and averred complete candor. When asked why State masked the inadequacy of its initial search, counsel claimed that the officials who initially responded to Judicial Watch’s request didn’t realize Clinton’s emails were missing, and that it took them two months to ‘figure [] out what was going on’… Counsel’s responses strain credulity. [citations omitted]
    The Court granted discovery because the government’s response to the Judicial Watch Benghazi FOIA request for Clinton emails “smacks of outrageous conduct.”
    Citing an email (uncovered as a result of Judicial Watch’s lawsuit) that Hillary Clinton acknowledged that Benghazi was a terrorist attack immediately after it happened, Judge Lamberth asked:
    Did State know Clinton deemed the Benghazi attack terrorism hours after it happened, contradicting the Obama Administration’s subsequent claim of a protest-gone-awry?
    ****
    Did the Department merely fear what might be found? Or was State’s bungling just the unfortunate result of bureaucratic red tape and a failure to communicate? To preserve the Department’s integrity, and to reassure the American people their government remains committed to transparency and the rule of law, this suspicion cannot be allowed to fester.
    “The historic court ruling raises concerns about the Hillary Clinton email scandal and government corruption that millions of Americans share,” stated Judicial Watch Tom Fitton. “Judicial Watch looks forward to conducting careful discovery into the Clinton email issue and we hope the Justice Department and State Department recognize Judge Lamberth’s criticism and help, rather than obstruct, this court-ordered discovery.”

  6. Laura C says:

    you people have TOO much time on your hands!!!!

    1. George Grumbach says:

      Amen! The obsessive pursuit of Hillary Clinton borders on derangement. If we want to harp on the past, maybe it would be fun to rehash Richard Nixon or maybe even Warren Harding. They, at least, became Presidents.

      1. Jane Karlin says:

        So true. Enough HC bashing. Her place in history now belongs to the (s)ages. Love her or hate her, the election is over and it is highly doubtful she will be running for anything again. Let’s focus on the future, and what we will do to secure a bright future for our children and their children.

        Jane

  7. Shawn G. says:

    Jim- I get my news from many sources. Fox News is one of the worst.

  8. Robert Zuber says:

    Shawn, honestly not trying to be controversial just would like to know what you consider the best, please give me several. I’ll keep an open mind.
    Bob

    1. Shawn G. says:

      Hi Bob,
      I wish this platform notified us when someone replies to our post (like Discus does); fortuitously, I saw your comment on the main page. Anyhow, I like NPR a lot b/c it is interesting and relevant. I like BBC b/c of the quality international coverage. I also look (too much) at News on my iPhone; I just scroll and read the headlines and click and read if something looks interesting I’ll read it (news from many sources). Plus The Edge for local news! Thanks.

  9. Robert Zuber says:

    I may surprise you with my views at times but we’re in agreement on NPR, scrolling my phone makes my head explode. Thanks for the reply
    Bob Z

    1. Shawn says:

      Always nice to find things to agree on.
      You related to Nancy?

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