Ignorance Is Trump’s Excuse


Donald Trump's critics say his defense of hush payments to women who claim to have had sex with him betrays a misunderstanding of campaign finance law. If so, it is hard to see how the president could have "knowingly and willfully" violated the law, as required for a criminal conviction. Last week Michael Cohen, Trump's former personal lawyer, pleaded guilty to making an excessive campaign contribution by paying porn star Stephanie Clifford, a.k.a. Stormy Daniels, $130,000 in exchange for her silence about her alleged affair with Trump. Cohen also admitted he caused an illegal corporate campaign donation by arranging for The National Enquirer to pay former Playboy model Karen McDougal $150,000 for her story about sex with Trump, which it kept under wraps. "Those two counts aren't even a crime," Trump claimed in a Fox News interview. He emphasized that he reimbursed Cohen with his own money, as opposed to campaign funds, which "could be a little dicey."

Trevor Potter, who as a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission (FEC) should know, clarified the point in a Washington Post op-ed piece. Trump's reimbursement, Potter explained, "would just make Cohen's payment a loan to the Trump campaign," and "federal law treats a loan to a campaign as a contribution, subject to contribution limits and disclosure requirements."

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