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Hullabaloo


Thursday, May 03, 2018

 

No conspiracy. No conspiracy.

Tom Sullivan

Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani appeared last night on Fox News with Sean Hannity to defend the president, now his client. He did the kind of job we have come to expect from those in the employ of Donald J. Trump. Giuliani admitted what the president has heretofore forcefully denied. Trump knew about and in a series of payments repaid lawyer Michael Cohen for the $130,000 in hush money paid to adult film actress Stormy Daniels. There was no campaign finance violation, Giuliani insisted to a befuddled Hannity.

The New York Times:

“Some time after the campaign is over, they set up a reimbursement, $35,000 a month, out of his personal family account,” Mr. Giuliani said. He added that over all, Mr. Cohen was paid $460,000 or $470,000 from Mr. Trump through those payments, which also included money for “incidental expenses” that he had incurred on Mr. Trump’s behalf.
Those are some incidentals.

Cohen had previously claimed the money came out of his own pocket, financed by a home loan, the Times adds, leaving him open to a charge of violating campaign finance caps. Giuliani's statements, if true, take the heat off Cohen and put the focus on Trump. If made in furtherance of his campaign, Trump would have to declare the payments to the Federal Elections Commission as a campaign expenditure. Trump did not.
Paul S. Ryan, an official at the government watchdog group Common Cause, argued that “all the facts indicate that the payment was to influence the election.”

Mr. Ryan asserted that Mr. Giuliani’s admission could allow prosecutors to make the case that Mr. Trump “knowingly caused his campaign committee to file an incomplete disclosure report with the F.E.C.”
Twitter exploded. Election Law Blog's Rick Hasen elaborates on the campaign finance implications for Slate:
Although many campaign finance violations are handled just as fines, as Giuliani seemed to suggest in his Hannity interview Wednesday night, that’s not true for willful violations of campaign finance law, especially those implicating the public interest. Those can lead to criminal liability. If there was an unreported six-figure loan to the campaign to pay off someone who had an affair with a presidential candidate, with repayments facilitated through corporate resources, that seems like a serious enough violation to merit review by the Justice Department.

Ultimately, Giuliani offered two defenses for Trump on Hannity. One, as mentioned, is that the payments were not campaign-related.

The other is that Trump did not know the specifics of what Cohen was doing; just that Cohen was the fixer taking care of things just like Giuliani said he did for his clients. It is a defense that could well be corroborated or rejected based on what’s in the seized Cohen materials.
About those Cohen materials. As Giuliani was implicating his client on Fox, on MSNBC the New York Times's Michael Schmidt explained to Rachel Maddow just how difficult a client Trump's legal team has to defend. Asked whether Giuliani and the other new team members would be addressing the Cohen case in the Southern District of New York as well as the Mueller investigation, Schmidt replied [timestamp 3:12]:
"The thing about the New York case is that they don't know a lot about it. They are very unnerved about it because Michael Cohen and the president will not talk about it. They won't disclose what they think is in those documents."
Trump and his cronies are in charge of the Executive Branch of a superpower with nuclear weapons.

There is a scene in Tom Clancy's "Debt of Honor" that keeps coming to mind. It's the 1994 novel in which Clancy foresees a suicide attack on the United States using an airliner. Jack Ryan has this exchange with his Secret Service bodyguard:
"You mean to tell me that it's that screwed up?"
 "Paul, you think you're smart?" Jack asked. The question took the Secret Service man aback a little.
 "Yeah, I do. So?”
 "So why do you suppose that anybody else is smarter than you are? They're not, Paul," Ryan went on. "They have a different job, but it isn't about brains. It's about education and experience. Those people don't know crap about running a criminal investigation. Neither do I. Every tough job requires brains, Paul. But you can't know them all. Anyway; bottom line, okay? No, they're not any smarter than you, and maybe not as smart as you. It's just that it's their job to run the financial markets, and your job to do something else."
"Jesus," breathes the bodyguard.

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For The Win 2018 is ready for download. Request a copy of my county-level election mechanics primer at tom.bluecentury at gmail.