Trump says Michael Cohen didn’t commit crimes. He’s wrong.
On Tuesday, Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to making an excessive and unreported in-kind contribution to President Trump’s 2016 campaign by paying $130,000 to Stephanie Clifford — better known by her stage name, Stormy Daniels — for the purposes of keeping her alleged affair with Trump under wraps during the crucial closing days of the election. Trump and his supporters now argue that these facts do not constitute violations of federal election laws, because the payments involved private matters and were ultimately reimbursed out of his personal — not campaign — funds. But Trump and his defenders are wrong. What we know about the facts would provide substantial evidence to any jury that these payments were all about influencing the election at a crucial moment, rather than purely personal matters — and thus, the payments were violations of federal election laws.
The fact that Cohen was reimbursed by Trump for the payments the next year does not change the fact that Cohen’s initial payment was illegal, and we now know that AMI was never reimbursed by Trump at all. A jury won’t have to weigh in on Cohen, of course. But clearly every lawyer and legal official involved — the prosecutors at the Department of Justice, Cohen and his lawyer, and the federal judge who accepted his plea — all believed there was a crime committed here, or they would not have allowed him to plead guilty to it.
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