I don’t know why he thinks this argument makes things better for him instead of worse.
— FOX & friends (@foxandfriends) August 22, 2018
He’s trying to make the point, I guess, that you can’t have an illegal campaign contribution if the campaign isn’t involved in it. But you can, of course. A campaign’s just an organization to promote a particular person’s candidacy for public office. If you spend some of your own money in furtherance of that goal, to try to influence the election on that candidate’s behalf, you’ve effectively contributed to the candidate’s campaign. At this point, with Cohen claiming in court that he paid off Stormy at Trump’s direction, Trump should be encouraging the perception that the campaign was somehow behind the payoff, not him personally.
Maybe what he’s doing here, in a roundabout way, is making the point that Ben Shapiro suggests:
Trump’s best defense here is actually pretty credible: he’s got a long history of finding ways to pay women to shut up, so this wasn’t a campaign expenditure. I’m baffled why that isn’t the first line of defense. See, e.g., this: https://t.co/BBuLhrrPsc
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) August 22, 2018
How can it be a campaign contribution, he’s suggesting, when I’ve paid off mistresses my entire adult life? The money didn’t come from the campaign, it came from my own personal sex hush-money fund. It has nothing to do with elections or campaigns! The problem with that defense is obvious, though. It opens him up to the question of precisely how many women he’s paid off and how many mistresses he’s had. Evangelicals will probably look the other way at anything at this point but I don’t know that a few weeks of “All the President’s Babes” coverage is great for him.
Plus, he’d run into the timeline problem I’ve described before. The Trump/Daniels liaison happened in 2006; Stormy told InTouch magazine about it in 2011. Cohen got wind of it at the time and evidently threatened InTouch if they published it, which they didn’t. Trump and Cohen could have bought Daniels’s silence at any point in the five years that followed. They declined. Cohen reportedly found out that she was shopping her story in September 2016, just weeks before the election, and even then he refused to pay her off. Only after the “Access Hollywood” tape surface did he finally scrounge up some cash to hush her up, no doubt fearing that evidence of adultery with a porn star while his pregnant wife was at home wouldn’t be ideal at a moment when women voters were already annoyed at him over the Billy Bush audio. It’s easy to make the case that Trump’s general habit of paying for NDAs long predates his candidacy for president but it’s much harder to make the case that the particular NDA with Stormy is unconnected to politics.
In lieu of an exit question, here’s a bit from the transcript of Cohen’s plea yesterday. The feds don’t say what evidence they have pointing to Trump’s coordination with Cohen on the Stormy and Karen McDougal deals but there’s clearly more to the case than Cohen’s word against Trump’s.
NBC News: Several political pundits seem to suggest that the Cohen plea is his word against the President’s.
Here’s Andrea Griswold, federal prosecutor, detailing the evidence they had and would have used to prove the counts involving the President at trial: pic.twitter.com/MFLuFxQO6k
— Tom Winter (@Tom_Winter) August 22, 2018