The Michael Cohen plea agreement (full pdf here) is a total of eight counts claimed by the SDNY as unlawful activity. However, one count is entirely political and not supported by the Federal Election Commission. Guess which one the media focus on?
Yeah, let’s review.
Within the plea agreement the first five charges relate to tax avoidance, or tax evasion. Each count relates to a specific tax year: 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016. The sixth charge, a bank fraud charge, relates to lying on a credit application. These six charges appear valid, documented and agreed in the plea. The seventh charge, relates to structuring financial transactions through the use of a corporation. This charge is tenuous, but arguable.
However, the eighth charge is the one the media are focused on. The charge of an illegal campaign contribution:
This Count Eight transaction surrounds a payment to Stephanie Clifford (Stormy Daniels) of $130,000 for a nuisance claim. Who says it is a campaign contribution? The SDNY does, no-one else. Not even the FEC considers this a campaign contribution.
Count eight is a political charge/plea specifically included for the purpose of pulling Donald Trump into the SDNY Cohen case. There is no FEC violation here. *Note it is not the Federal Election Commission making the claim, only the SDNY prosecutors.
Despite the media hype it is not a campaign contribution for a candidate to instruct his attorney to pay-off a nuisance claim to avoid any issues or embarrassment. It is not a campaign donation for Donald Trump to reimburse his attorney for paying the claim.
♦The issue of the Cohen payment being an “in kind” campaign contribution is the bottom line question which underpins the charge.
There is no FEC rule or law that says a candidate cannot pay-off an accuser to avoid further issues, a nuisance claim. Paying an accuser to avoid controversy or embarrassment, is no different than a candidate buying an American made car -with personal funds- to gain the beneficial public optics of not driving a foreign car. Neither expense example makes the payment an aspect of am “in kind” campaign contribution.
There is no connected claim that President Trump used campaign funds to repay his attorney for eliminating the nuisance claim. President Trump, a businessman, used his own business income to repay his attorney; an attorney on a monthly retainer.
The entire charge of Cohen making a campaign contribution, or campaign finance violation, is a manufactured claim, made only by the SDNY, for political benefit.
Former FEC Chairman Bradley Smith explains the details of the non-issue to radio host Mark Levin. Watch/Listen:
Here is the plea agreement: