(National Sentinel) In the clear: Once again, official Washington is all aflutter over the prospect of “getting POTUS Trump” after special counsel Robert Mueller got eight of 18 convictions against former campaign manager Paul Manafort and a guilty plea from Michael Cohen, the president’s former personal lawyer.
While news of both legal developments hitting on the same day may seem like a big blow against POTUS Trump, especially the claim that Cohen’s hush money payments to a former porn star and Playboy bunny at the direction of his former top client could amount to campaign finance violations, talk host and author Mark Levin, head of Landmark Legal Foundation and former Reagan Justice Department official, warned POTUS supporters to calm down.
During an appearance with Sean Hannity on Fox News Tuesday after Cohen’s plea deal was announced, Levin said he had interviewed former Federal Elections Commission chief, Bradley Smith, on his radio program on Monday.
Smith was emphatic: No, such payments are not considered campaign finance violations by the FEC.
“When the FEC wrote the regulation that says what constitutes campaign expenditures and what constitutes personal use, it rejected specifically the idea that a campaign expenditure was anything related to a campaign and instead says it has to be something that exists only because of the campaign and solely for that reason,” Smith said.
Levin reemphasized that point and made additional arguments on Hannity’s program.
“The general counsel for the Clinton mob family, Lanny Davis, he had his client plead to two counts of criminality that don’t exist. These campaign finance violations that all over TV they say implicates the president directly… It is a guilty plea,” said Levin.
“It is a plea bargain between a prosecutor and a criminal, a criminal who doesn’t want to spend the rest of his life in prison. That is not precedent. That applies only to that specific case. Nobody cites plea bargains for precedent. That’s number one,” he continued.
“Number two, just because a prosecutor says that somebody violated a campaign law doesn’t make it so. He’s not the judge. He’s not the jury… A campaign expenditure under our federal campaign laws is an expenditure solely for campaign activity. A candidate who spends his own money or even corporate money for an event that occurred not as a result of the campaign is not a campaign expenditure,” Levin noted.
In his interview with Levin, Smith — who once chaired the FEC also said the purpose of the campaign finance laws “is to prevent corruption.”
Writing in The Wall Street Journal in April, Smith noted:
FEC regulations explain that the campaign cannot pay expenses that would exist “irrespective” of the campaign, even if it might help win an election. At the same time, obligations that would not exist “but for” the campaign must be paid from campaign funds.
If paying hush money is a campaign expense, a candidate would be required to make that payment with campaign funds. How ironic, given that using campaign funds as hush money was one of the articles of impeachment in the Watergate scandal, which gave rise to modern campaign-finance law.
It’s clear Cohen is trying to do as little jail time as possible. It’s also clear that Mueller is attempting to define what a campaign finance violation is.
He doesn’t get to do that.
And again — what does any of this have to do with “Russian collusion?”