On Tuesday afternoon, on the heels of a jury verdict --- well, partial verdict --- in the Paul Manafort trial that could send Manafort to prison for the rest of his life even though it had nothing to do with Donald Trump or Russian collusion, it was revealed that Michael Cohen had accepted a plea deal in a case that had been moved by the special counsel to the Southern District of New York. That prompted President Trump’s personal lawyer, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, to issue this statement: “There is no allegation of any wrongdoing against the President in the government’s charges against Mr. Cohen. It is clear that, as the prosecutor noted, Mr. Cohen’s actions reflect a pattern of lies and dishonesty over a significant period of time.”
Back in March, Cohen said in a Vanity Fair interview that Trump didn’t know he’d paid Stephanie Clifford (Stormy Daniels) $130,000 out of his own pocket. He had said the same thing to the New York Times a month earlier. Significantly, Cohen’s plea deal departs from what he’d previously claimed and from what Giuliani has said about no campaign laws being broken, because it specifies that he broke the law to influence the 2016 election at the direction of “a candidate.” But Cohen’s statements, as legal expert Andrew C. McCarthy noted on Sean Hannity’s Tuesday show, have been “all over the map.” He theorized that the Cohen case had ended up in the Southern District of New York because Mueller didn’t think it would advance his “Russia” investigation. Cohen hasn’t entered into a cooperation agreement, he explained, but rather a straight-up guilty plea. If Cohen were regarded as a valuable witness or cooperator, he said, we’d be seeing “a very different kind of plea agreement.” I’m assuming he means one that doesn’t call for any jail time.
McCarthy told him, “Sean, I don’t think anybody objective could look at the way that the Clinton email investigation was handled and the way the Trump campaign has been pursued and say that there’s a single standard of justice. I just don’t see how that could be.” At the same time, he doesn’t want Mueller taking the reins on that when the U.S. attorney general in Utah is already looking into it. “I’d rather see them do it than see Mueller do it,” he says. “I think Mueller should stay focused on what he’s doing and bring it to an end.”
It can’t be said enough: As far as we’ve come in this investigation, with people being sent to prison to perhaps rot there, nothing ties President Trump with any attempt by Russia to interfere in the 2016 election. On the other hand, plenty of evidence ties Hillary Clinton with Russians who contributed to the fictional “dossier” compiled by British ex-spy Christopher Steele for the purpose of interfering in the 2016 election. As I said yesterday, if you’re looking for evidence of a two-tiered justice system, Hillary is “Exhibit A.” But I agree with McCarthy that Mueller shouldn’t take over the Hillary case –- I don’t TRUST him to take over that case.
Speaking of Hillary, Mark Levin, on his Tuesday radio show, pointed out that longtime Clinton general counsel Lanny Davis (who just HAPPENS by COMPLETE COINCIDENCE to be representing Michael Cohen) had Cohen plead guilty to two campaign finance violations that don’t actually exist. Besides that, such a plea bargain is a deal made with “a criminal who doesn’t want to spend the rest of his life in prison” (in other words, not very believable) and applies only to his specific case. Since it hasn’t be adjudicated, it can’t be cited as precedent to use against Trump.
He explained that according to campaign law, if someone spends his own money, or even corporate money, on something that occurs not as a result of the campaign, it is not a campaign expenditure, even if it might affect the outcome of the election. For example, maybe a candidate wants to pay off a lot of debt, get a new wardrobe or have extensive dental work and reimburses the payment with his own money. Those are not campaign expenditures, even if they might help win the candidate some votes. According to Levin, even if Trump directed Cohen to make payments to Stormy Daniels as part of a non-disclosure agreement, it’s legal for him to do so.
Alan Dershowitz had a slightly different take: if the payment is originally made by someone else, a case might be made that it's technically an unreported campaign contribution (which he likened to "jaywalking"), even if it's reimbursed later.
Of course, either way, it doesn’t matter to those who hate Trump, including those on the special counsel team. They’ll just go with what they’ve got and use it any way they can.