President Donald Trump is defending the hush money payments made by his former attorney Michael Cohen to a pair of women, insisting, contrary to Cohen’s guilty plea, that the effort wasn’t “even a campaign violation.” (Aug. 22)
After Michael Cohen implicated President Donald Trump in open court in two campaign finance violations, Trump has been on the defensive.
The violations arose from an alleged scheme to silence two women who claimed affairs with the president. Cohen says he paid them off at the direction of Trump and pleaded guilty to eight counts on Tuesday.
But Trump argues that campaign finance issues are common and what happened wasn’t a crime. On an interview that aired Thursday on FOX News, Trump pointed to his predecessor, former president Barack Obama, who he said was caught in a “massive” violation.
“Almost everybody that runs for office has campaign violations,” he argued.
But there’s one key difference: the violation in Trump’s case was apparently purposeful.
What happened with Obama?
In 2013, President Obama was fined $375,000 by the Federal Election Commission after his 2008 campaign did not turn in reports for about 1,300 last-minute donations that totaled nearly $1.9 million.
The fine was one of the largest against a presidential campaign and topped the $208,000 in civil penalties paid by Rev. Al Sharpton after failing to accurately report receipts and spending during his 2004 presidential bid.
Tuesday was a bad day in court for former associates of President Donald Trump, and it could foreshadow tough days ahead for the president. AP’s Washington Bureau Chief Julie Pace looks at what it all means for Trump’s White House. (Aug. 21)
Republican Bob Dole’s 1996 presidential campaign was fined $100,000.
What’s going on with Trump?
In Trump’s case, Cohen told a judge that he paid off the two women “in coordination with, and at the direction of” the then-candidate. He said the secretive payments to hide damaging information about Trump were made for the sole purpose of “influencing the election.”
It wasn’t just Cohen’s word, either. In court, federal prosecutors laid out their evidence, the timeline and the paper trail showing the payments and why they were made.
Trump isn’t wrong in saying plenty of candidates have been fined for campaign finance violations. It’s relatively common to be fined by the Federal Election Commission for civil violations, as many of the violations aren’t done with malice.
Even Trump’s campaign had issues. The FEC pointed out more than 1,000 errors in one 2016 filing, about a handful of which violated campaign finance laws, according to CNN.
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