Democrats across the country were ready to fire up impeachment proceedings after President Donald Trump’s longtime lawyer and friend Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to making an illegal campaign contribution “in coordination with and at the direction of a candidate for federal office” and “for the principal purpose of influencing the election.”
As members of the media offered each other high fives over the news and gained an extra pep in their step at the prospect of Trump’s early retirement, the president himself remained unfazed, telling “Fox & Friends” host Ainsley Earhardt that he didn’t know about the payments until “later on,” and that the payments were legal because they didn’t come out of the campaign.
Much ado about nothingburger
Given the complete pandemonium overtaking the media at the time, Trump was noticeably calm and collected as he spoke with Earhardt on Wednesday. “My first question when I heard about it was, ‘did they come out of the campaign?’” asked Trump.
“Because that could be a little dicey. But they didn’t come out of the campaign and that’s big,” he said, referring to “hush money” payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels and Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal, both who claim to have had brief affairs with Trump over a decade ago.
— FOX & friends (@foxandfriends) August 22, 2018
The sky is falling
Outside 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the anti-Trump mainstream media were all but certain that they had the president dead to rights after Cohen implicated Trump following his guilty plea to eight felony charges.
“When a lawyer tells prosecutors that his client directed him to commit a crime and pleads guilty to related crimes himself, an indictment of the client is very likely to follow,” wrote New York Times contributor Adam Liptak.
The headline from The New Yorker’s “Swamp Chronicles” reads: “With Michael Cohen’s Guilty Plea, President Trump Has Been Implicated in a Criminal Conspiracy.”
And, of course, The New York Times’ Editorial Board — the same esteemed group who just added an unapologetic anti-white racist to their ranks, wrote:
Only a complete fantasist — that is, only President Trump and his cult — could continue to claim that this investigation of foreign subversion of an American election, which has already yielded dozens of other indictments and several guilty pleas, is a “hoax” or “scam” or “rigged witch hunt.”
The rest of the story
Harvard Law School professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz explains that Trump did nothing wrong if he paid Daniels and McDougal out of his own pocket. “If the president had paid $280,000 to these two women, even if he had done so in order to help his campaign, that would be no problem,” Dershowitz said during an episode of Fox News’s “Special Report.”
Why? As Dershowitz correctly observed: “The candidate is entitled to contribute a million dollars to his own campaign, as long as he reports it.”
As far as claims from The New Yorker that Trump is an unindicted co-conspirator, Dershowitz said, “You don’t become an unindicted co-conspirator if your action is lawful, even though the action of the other person is unlawful.”
A guilty plea in one case does not promise a guilty plea in another. At worst, added the Harvard professor, Trump is guilty of failing to report a campaign contribution, which he described as the “jaywalking” of campaign finance offenses.
“It might be a misdemeanor for the campaign to fail to report that payment, but it would be on the campaign, not on the candidate,” he said. “So, that’s not even a close question and to talk about it as a high crime and misdemeanor is absurd. That’s not the kind of thing the Framers had in mind.”
Ultimately, Dershowitz joined the few sane voices in the media by concluding that the president was “more correct than his critics are” when it comes to the Cohen plea.