The Mueller/Comey/Clinton Collusion to Take Down Trump
The claim of campaign-finance violations will fuel the Democrats' relentless hounding of Trump over the next two years, as it fits with their "stolen election" narrative and is fodder for faux impeachment charges.
“It is of great importance to set a resolution, not to be shaken, never to tell an untruth. There is no vice so mean, so pitiful, so contemptible; and he who permits himself to tell a lie once, finds it much easier to do it a second and a third time, till at length it becomes habitual; he tells lies without attending to it, and truths without the world’s believing him.” —Thomas Jefferson (1785)
There was actual news this week (versus the constant din of media churn) regarding the special counsel investigation into what originally was supposed to focus on Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election.
Of course, that mandate immediately turned into an unlimited investigation into all manner of ostensible wrongdoing regarding Donald Trump and his campaign associates, including an investigation into whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election. As you recall, that diversion was prompted by a fake dossier funded by Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
The “collusion” diversion has not turned up anything of substance thus far, though it has served its purpose – to keep Trump on the ropes for 18 months. So the investigation has now diverted to the question of how then-candidate Trump used his own money to settle what constituted extortion payouts associated with two past lurid associations — and whether those payments violated campaign-finance law.
What follows is a breakdown of the key developments, but first, an observation on the hypocrisy regarding foreign influence in our electoral process, as well as perjury. At the same time Democrat Party principals are feigning concern about foreign influence of our elections, they are advocating for open borders, pandering to their Hispanic constituents in an effort to change the demography by flooding voter rolls with “new” constituents. And Democrats are now concerned about perjury after defending Bill Clinton’s lies as president about his sexual assaults?
Never let it be said that Democrats allow abject hypocrisy to get in the way of their political agenda.
The Mueller Investigation
To date, the only known connection Robert Mueller and his team of Clintonistas have made between the 2016 election and Russia was included in his indictment of a handful of Russian hacks last July. But that meddling started a year before Donald Trump announced his candidacy, and their objective was to foment discord in order to undermine American confidence in our electoral system.
Arguably, after Trump’s upset election, Democrat Party hysterics, bolstered by their accompanying Leftmedia echo-chamber histrionics and the epidemic of leftist Trump Derangement Syndrome, have done far more to undermine electoral confidence than Russia could ever have hoped to achieve.
Of course, those Russians will never see the inside of a U.S. courtroom. As former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy notes, “There are 144 million more people in Russia who will never see the inside of an American courtroom. If Mueller indicts all of them, his stats will be really impressive … and there’ll still be no Trump espionage conspiracy against the election.”
Additionally, he has accumulated some “process crimes,” most notably perjury charges related to the testimony of George Papadopoulos, Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, and Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen. However, there is nothing that remotely establishes Russian collusion with the Trump campaign. Nothing.
Of most significance, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, in collusion with the Mueller investigation, filed a sentencing memo regarding its grand jury probe into Cohen, noting his “extensive, deliberate, and serious criminal conduct,” but asking that he “receive credit for his assistance” to Mueller’s investigation.
Cohen was sentenced to 36 months in prison after pleading guilty to nine felony counts, including two violations of campaign-finance law – which may not have been violations. This “cooperation” and his please are connected to his role in paying off what can be described as two extortion demands agains then-candidate Trump.
But in regard to Russia, it is notable that one of Cohen’s perjury charges was his lie about the timeline of a deal with Russia to build a Trump Tower in Moscow – a negotiation that was completely legal but was dropped when the two parties were not able to reach a deal. However, Trump did not lie about this negotiation.
All told, over the course of Trump’s 18-month campaign, 14 people associated with Trump had contacts of some sort with Russians. Frankly, given all of Trump’s international business dealings, I’m surprised that number isn’t much higher.
Other than the interminable Mueller investigation and report to come, thus far the only related investigation was conducted by Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz. His investigation concluded that former CIA Director John Brennan colluded with Comey and other deep-state operatives to provide cover for Clinton who were Clinton supporters, and used their government offices to undermine Trump’s campaign. They were clearly engaged in an effort to influence the 2016 election.
(Sidebar: Beyond the fact that Brennan and Comey seeded the Justice Department’s appointment of Mueller and Comey lied about leaking the fake dossier report that ensured that appointment, Mueller’s constitutional authority is questionable given that the special prosecutor and independent counsel provisions of the Ethics in Government Act of 1978 expired in 1999.)
The Mueller investigation has as of yet been unable to establish “Russian collusion” with Donald Trump’s campaign to influence the 2016 campaign, but there are some perilous issues with possible campaign-finance violations that have emerged as yet another tangent of the Mueller investigation. As noted above, two of those violations are related to extortion payments Trump made to silence alleged Trump affairs, which occurred long before he was a candidate. The payments were from Trump and not his campaign, but the complaint is that they constituted undisclosed campaign contributions, and if so, they would have exceeded allowable contribution limits.
Democrats are gleefully hoping that felony charges will emerge from the aforementioned case against Cohen filed by the U.S. attorney in New York. Charges can be filed if undisclosed payments constitute a campaign contribution, even though a candidate may donate unlimited funds to his or her own campaign. The donations would have had to be disclosed both as revenue, and how those funds were expensed.
Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, a noted Democrat, offered this observation about the payoffs:
It is absolutely textbook extortion. There ought to be a prosecution of any person — man or woman — who approaches any candidate and says, “Unless you pay me money, I’m going to reveal a sex act that occurred.” That is absolute classic extortion. It is shocking that the special counsel — who has a broad mandate — isn’t looking into the extortion. … It’s clear that [Trump and Cohen] were paying off extortion in order to prevent these issues from coming out for multiple reasons: to protect his family, to protect his brand and the campaign. Let’s remember one more thing: The president can contribute to a candidate as much as he wants. As far as reporting is concerned, it is the campaign that has to report [these contributions]. So if [Trump’s] payments had to be reported, they had to be reported after the election. The reporting time was after the election — so it could not have impacted the election. So the absurd notion that he won the presidency by fraud and should be stripped of the presidency reflects incredible ignorance about the timing here and how these statutes operate.
Dershowitz concluded, “We need a single standard. If you would not go after Bill Clinton, don’t go after Donald Trump. If you are going after Donald Trump, then you have to go after Hillary Clinton. … This is such a danger to the constitutional system that I would hope that true civil libertarians would rebel against it, as I am.”
The relevant part of the Federal Election Campaign Act notes that “expenditure” is any “purchase, payment, loan, advance, deposit or gift of money, or anything of value, for the purpose of influencing any election for Federal office.” But drilling down, the law excludes personal spending “used to fulfill any commitment, obligation, or expense of a person that would exist irrespective of the candidate’s election campaign.” Like funds to silence disputed claims of wrongdoing.
The problem for Trump is that prosecutors now have two witnesses claiming he knew the extortion payoffs would support his campaign. Not only has Cohen implicated Trump in one of the extortion settlements, but the The National Inquirer’s publishing company has also implicated Trump’s complicity in a payment to conceal a second claim about a past affair.
If Trump intentionally directed and paid Cohen to make these payments for the specific purpose of supporting his campaign, and did not report the payment, that would be a felony violation. However, such the most literal interpretation of the FEC laws regarding such expenditures would mean that virtually every candidate, since the law’s enactment 45 years ago, would frequently be in violation of unreported campaign benefits, which is why they are rarely prosecuted and only then, result in fines.
In his defense, Trump declared, “I never directed Michael Cohen to break the law,” and proving he did is a high bar for prosecutors.
On Cohen, Trump noted further: “He was a lawyer and he is supposed to know the law. It is called ‘advice of counsel,’ and a lawyer has great liability if a mistake is made. That is why they get paid. Many campaign finance lawyers have strongly stated that I did nothing wrong with respect to campaign finance laws, if they even apply, because this was not campaign finance. Cohen was guilty on many charges unrelated to me, but he plead to two campaign charges which were not criminal and of which he probably was not.”
For his part, Cohen, who lived a rich and famous life as Trump’s attorney, predictably now claims to be a victim. “It is my own weakness and blind loyalty to this man that led me to pursue a path of darkness,” Cohen declared at his sentencing hearing. He apologized for being a “fixer” for Trump’s “dirty deeds.” Cohen also says he will reveal all he knows about Trump after the Mueller report is public – could be a book deal in the making.
(Sidebar: For the record, Trump’s private payments are far less nefarious than the secret taxpayer-funded payoffs from a congressional slush fund used to silence sexual harassment complaints made against members of Congress. According to a statement from Senate Rules Committee Chairman Roy Blunt (R-MO), “This bipartisan, bicameral agreement sends a clear message that harassment in any form will not be tolerated by the Congress. The reforms in this agreement will, most importantly, strengthen protections for victims and hold Members of Congress personally accountable for their misconduct.”)
Regarding the U.S. attorney charges, according to Hans von Spakovsky, former FEC commissioner and the nation’s foremost authority on federal election law: “His theory that anything intended to ‘influence’ an election is a campaign-related expense fails to take into account the statutory limitation on this definition. FECA (52 U.S.C. 30114 (b)(2) specifically says that campaign-related expenses do not include any expenditures ‘used to fulfill any commitment, obligation, or expense of a person that would exist irrespective of the candidate’s election campaign.’ Given Trump’s celebrity status, the potential liability to these women existed ‘irrespective of the candidate’s election campaign.’”
And how do the Trump payments compare with other cases of illegal use of actual campaign funds in recent years?
According to Andrew McCarthy, “Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign was guilty of violations involving nearly $2 million — an amount that dwarfs the $280,000 in Cohen’s case. The Obama Justice Department decided not to prosecute. Instead, the matter was quietly disposed of by a $375,000 fine by the Federal Election Commission.”
No demand for felony convictions or his impeachment…
Recall also that the Justice Department failed to convict former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards on campaign finance violations when he ran for president in 2008, and that case is instructive. Edwards was tried on six felony charges after taking $1 million from two wealthy donors and using it to conceal his relationship with his mistress, Rielle Hunter. He faced up to 30 years in prison if he was convicted on all counts.
But Edwards’ acquittal was not so much based on the question of motivation for the campaign fund payments as the prosecution’s ability to hang that motivation around his neck. While Edwards, like Trump, argued that the payments were not campaign contributions made for the exclusive benefit of his campaign. But the judge, according to WaPo, “rejected this argument as a matter of law, ruling that a payment to a candidate’s extramarital sexual partner is a campaign contribution if ‘one of’ the reasons the payment is made is to influence the election.”
However, as reported by the Wall Street Journal: “Mr. Trump was involved in or briefed on nearly every step of the agreements. He directed deals in phone calls and meetings with his self-described fixer, Michael Cohen, and others. The U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan has gathered evidence of Mr. Trump’s participation in the transactions.”
As NR’s David French notes, “The best available evidence indicates that Trump’s [hush payments] didn’t exist ‘irrespective’ of his campaign but rather because of his campaign. That’s Michael Cohen’s assertion. The affairs were relatively old – and so was the threat to his family – but the payments were new, rendered at a crucial time in a very close presidential contest.”
Regarding Edwards’ acquittal of those charges, Melanie Sloan, executive director for a campaign finance watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, declared, “As noted by nearly every campaign finance lawyer who considered the matter, this was a lousy case.”
The Leftmedia propagandists offered similar conclusions for their Democrat candidate. The New York Times noted it was “a case that had no precedent.” The Washington Post observed: “At the time, an array of legal experts, including former prosecutors, questioned the wisdom of bringing the charges against Edwards, saying it was an aggressive interpretation of campaign finance laws.” The Los Angeles Times reported, “The case was unprecedented; no major political candidate has been charged with campaign finance corruption for attempts to hide a mistress…” Even MSNBC’s Chris Matthews insisted, “This John Edwards trial, this was a waste of time, money and public attention.”
As for all the criticism from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), in one of his elections he took in more than $1 million in revenue and had more than $6 million in expenses that he “failed to report.” He paid a $138,000 fine.
Of course, Bill Clinton had multiple accusations of rape and sexual assault, and in the Paula Jones case he paid $850,000 to “settle” that matter.
All this said, let me assert that the universe of campaign finance is a cesspool, regardless of whether it is a Republican or Democrat campaign in question. None of this should be interpreted as my support for the status quo, but all candidates should be treated the same.
If Democrats are really concerned about campaign-finance violations, let’s put a price on the biggest of those violations — the gross Leftmedia bias in support for Democrat candidates – equivalent to billions of dollars in free campaign advertising. Their fake news is priceless.
There is no chance that Trump will be exonerated of wrongdoing, as Democrats are anxious for impeachment fodder. They will pull out every stop to advance these charges.
On James Comey’s Testimony
Related to the Mueller investigation, disgraced former FBI Director James Comey was back in front of Congress testifying about what he no longer can recall. In his testimony last week, Comey was chastised for claiming not to know or recall key facts related to what he admitted was a fake dossier purporting to show Trump’s collusion with Russians. That phony dossier was then used as the basis for a FISA warrant to spy on the Trump campaign, and then, after Trump’s shocking electoral victory, it was used to help launch the special counsel’s investigation.
According to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), “The biggest takeaway is that former FBI Director James Comey, with regard to the two most important investigations … into the Clinton email matter and into the Russia collusion matter, said, ‘I don’t recall,’ ‘I don’t remember,’ or ‘I don’t know’ 245 times.”
Let that sink in.
Typical of Comey’s abject obfuscation was this interaction with House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC):
Gowdy: Do you recall who drafted the FBI’s initiation document for that late July 2016 Russia investigation?
Comey: I do not.
Gowdy: Would you disagree that it was Peter Strzok?
Comey: I don’t know one way or the other.
Gowdy: Do you know who approved that draft of an initial plan for the Russia investigation in late July 2016?
Comey: I don’t.
During his testimony, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) asked Comey, “Is there any need to further investigate Hillary Clinton’s emails based upon the decision that you made not to prosecute?” He replied, “Not that I can possibly see. There’s no serious person who thinks there’s a prosecutable case there. And so, not that can I see.”
That notwithstanding, Comey’s testimony raises the prospect that Hillary Clinton may finally face charges for using a private email server to keep her official communications as Obama’s secretary of state off the grid. She did so to ensure her communications would not be subject to public scrutiny during her then-planned 2016 presidential bid.
Clinton’s unmitigated ethical abuses, including her Benghazi cover-up to protect Obama’s reelection in 2012 and “pay-to-play” donations to the Clinton Foundation when she was serving as secretary of state, are about to be back on the table for possible prosecution.
Accelerating that possibility was last week’s finding by U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth that Clinton’s private email server constituted “one of the gravest modern offenses to government transparency.” Likewise, Lamberth slammed Justice and State: “At worst, career employees in the State and Justice departments colluded to scuttle public scrutiny of Clinton, skirt FOIA, and hoodwink this court.”
However, what I believe was most consequential from Comey’s testimony is the emergence again of Clinton’s Russian Fusion Collusion — the dossier and FISA court warrant.
Seems to be working thus far.
The Democrats’ Endgame
So, all being said, what do Mueller and his Democrat hatchet men have against Trump after almost two years of investigation? We’re not sure, because he has yet to release his final report – and it will undoubtedly provide Democrats a plethora of fodder for attacking Trump.
As we’ve noted from its inception, the entire Russia investigation was conceived to keep Trump on the ropes, on the defensive as president in an effort to block his agenda. The question about whether an extortion payoff constituted a campaign contribution, may provide a pathway to charges against Trump after he leaves office, but do Democrats really want to open that can of worms?
The prospect of campaign-finance violations is sufficient to fuel the Democrats’ relentless hounding of Trump over the next two years, as it fits with their “stolen election” narrative and is fodder for faux impeachment charges. They are hoping that the underwhelming campaign-finance charges will be their golden ticket to keep their “Trump impeachment” charade alive. California Democrat Adam Schiff, incoming chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, declared, “[Trump] may be the first president in quite some time to face the real prospect of jail time.” New York Demo Rep. Jerry Nadler, the incoming chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, added, “The president was at the center of a massive fraud, several massive frauds against the American people. It’s now our job … to get to the bottom of this … so we can hold him accountable.”
But these charges, in fact the whole investigation, constitute a formidable constitutional, legal and political test.
That notwithstanding, thus far Democrats have been unable to stop the Trump administration’s extraordinary achievements, so they’re converting their “hate Trump,” anti-peace-and-prosperity platform into an “impeach Trump” charade to rally their constituencies ahead of the 2020 election.
In the meantime, the Democrat-controlled House will, under Nancy Pelosi’s thumb, attempt to inflict “death by a thousand cuts” to keep Trump from further success.
Footnote: Patriots, one of the most cost-effective investments you can make toward the future of Liberty is to
Semper Vigilans Fortis Paratus et Fidelis