FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Stormy Weather for Trump, but is Sexual Hush Money a “Campaign Contribution?”

On August 21, US president Donald Trump’s former lawyer entered a guilty plea on several charges. The centerpiece charge: Making an illegal campaign contribution “in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office.” Michael Cohen’s own lawyer, Lanny Davis, identifies that candidate, revealing that Cohen “testified under oath that Donald Trump directed him to commit a crime.”

The issue, of course, involves a hush money payment of $130,000 from Cohen to adult film actor Stephanie Clifford, aka “Stormy Daniels.” The legal theory is that Cohen’s payment constituted an illegal and unreported in-kind campaign contribution to Trump. Or, as it is put in the charging documents, Cohen “made a $130,000 payment to [Clifford/Daniels] to ensure that she not publicize damaging allegation before the 2016 presidential election and thereby influence that election.”

I’m going to argue that that last bit — on which the criminal charge hinges — isn’t necessarily true, but first let me clear the deck.

Yes, it was stupid for Trump to pay hush money for silence from Clifford/Daniels. Yes, it was even dumber for him to have a third party make that payment on his behalf. And beyond being stupid, it was politically unnecessary.

Everyone who cared about Donald Trump’s marital infidelities and sexual peccadilloes already had enough — more than enough — information on the subject to reach the same conclusion that they would have reached from this particular incident. And it was therefore clear that nobody who still intended to vote for him as of late October 2016 did care. Which leads me to question the claim that the purpose of the payment was political (that is, intended “to influence the election”) as such.

Trump paid out hush money — money secured by a confidentiality agreement —  to his first wife in 1992, when he was not a candidate for public office. And again to his second wife in 1999, when he was not a candidate for public office (he did withhold a payment when she threatened to go public as he prepared his failed campaign for the Reform Party’s 2000 presidential nomination, which I guess could be taken as evidence that he “intended to influence the election”).

Who else has Trump paid for silence when he wasn’t a candidate for public office, and why? Who knows?

While it’s obvious that the upcoming presidential election was much on Donald Trump’s mind in October of 2016, it’s not obvious to me that someone paying sex-related hush money on his behalf is a “campaign contribution,” especially if he had other reasons (for example, the potential wrath of his third wife) to not want his sex life on the front page. And his history says he did in fact have other motivations.

If a friend gave Trump a pair of shoes for his birthday on June 14, 2016, and he wore them while accepting the Republican Party’s presidential nomination on July 19, 2016, were those shoes a “campaign contribution?”

Trump has committed any number of impeachment-worthy offenses. Perhaps his tormentors should concentrate on those offenses instead of just looking for the easiest way to “get Trump.”

More articles by:

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

April 25, 2019
Marc Levy
All My Vexes Are in Texas
Jim Kavanagh
Avoiding Assange
Michael D. Yates
The Road Beckons
Julian Vigo
Notre Dame Shows the Unifying Force of Culture, Grenfell Reveals the Corruption of Government
Ted Rall
Democratic Refusal to Impeach Could Be Disastrous
Tracey Harris
Lessons Learned From the Tiny House Movement
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Human Flourishing (Eudaimonia): an Antidote to Extinction?
Dana Johnson
Buyer Beware: Hovercraft Ruling Deals a Major Blow to Land Conservation in Alaska
Norman Solomon
Joe Biden: Puffery vs. Reality
Jen Marlowe
The Palestine Marathon
Binoy Kampmark
Lethal Bungling: Sri Lanka’s Easter Bombings
Michael Slager
“Where’s Your Plan?” Legalized Bribery and Climate Change
Jesse Jackson
Trump Plunges the US Deeper Into Forgotten Wars
George Wuerthner
BLM Grazing Decision Will Damage the Owyhee Canyonlands Wilderness
April 24, 2019
Susan Babbitt
Disdain and Dignity: An Old (Anti-Imperialist) Story
Adam Jonas Horowitz
Letter to the Emperor
Lawrence Davidson
A Decisive Struggle For Our Future
John Steppling
The Mandate for Israel: Keep the Arabs Down
Victor Grossman
Many Feet
Cira Pascual Marquina
The Commune is the Supreme Expression of Participatory Democracy: a Conversation with Anacaona Marin of El Panal Commune
Binoy Kampmark
Failed States and Militias: General Khalifa Haftar Moves on Tripoli
Dean Baker
Payments to Hospitals Aren’t Going to Hospital Buildings
Alvaro Huerta
Top Ten List in Defense of MEChA
Colin Todhunter
As the 2019 Indian General Election Takes Place, Are the Nation’s Farmers Being Dealt a Knock-Out Blow?
Charlie Gers
Trump’s Transgender Troops Ban is un-American and Inhumane
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Just Another Spring in Progress?
Thomas Knapp
On Obstruction, the Mueller Report is Clintonesque
Elliot Sperber
Every Truck’s a Garbage Truck
April 23, 2019
Peter Bolton
The Monroe Doctrine is Back, and as the Latest US Attack on Cuba Shows, Its Purpose is to Serve the Neoliberal Order
David Schultz
The Mueller Report: Trump Too Inept to Obstruct Justice
Geoff Beckman
Crazy Uncle Joe and the Can’t We All Just Get Along Democrats
Medea Benjamin
Activists Protect DC Venezuelan Embassy from US-supported Coup
Patrick Cockburn
What Revolutionaries in the Middle East Have Learned Since the Arab Spring
Jim Goodman
Don’t Fall for the Hype of Free Trade Agreements
Lance Olsen
Climate and Forests: Land Managers Must Adapt, and Conservationists, Too
William Minter
The Coming Ebola Epidemic
Tony McKenna
Stephen King’s IT: a 2019 Retrospective
David Swanson
Pentagon Claims 1,100 High Schools Bar Recruiters; Peace Activists Offer $1,000 Award If Any Such School Can Be Found
Gary Olson
A Few Comments on the recent PBS Series: Reconstruction: America After the Civil War
April 22, 2019
Melvin Goodman
The NYTs Tries to Rehabilitate Bloody Gina Haspel
Robert Fisk
After ISIS, a Divided Iraq, Wounded and Grief-Stricken
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange as Neuroses
John Laforge
Chernobyl’s Deadly Effects Estimates Vary
Kenneth Surin
Mueller Time? Not for Now
Cesar Chelala
Yemen: The Triumph of Barbarism
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail