This week, I will provide readers with a FREE excerpt from Resistance Is Futile!: How the Trump-Hating Left Lost Its Collective Mind in order to prove that if you'd bought the book two months ago, you'd already understand the rules of the game. Now that Democrats are about to take control of the House, this is the only book you'll need until President Trump is out of office.
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Boring facts can be used to prove big crimes, but in the case of Trump attorney Michael Cohen's payment to a porn star, what we have is a boring fact being used to prove a boring crime: an alleged violation of the campaign finance laws zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz ... Worse: They're trying to prove a reporting violation.
If Trump paid the $130,000 himself solely to help his campaign -- and he wouldn't have minded at all having a porn star telling the tabloids she'd had sex with him except for the fact that he was running for president -- it would be a reporting violation and OH MY GOSH -- HE'D HAVE TO PAY A FINE!
Their argument is what if he didn't pay it himself?! That's why the media are obsessed with when Cohen emailed Stormy Daniels' lawyer and from which email address -- trying to find bread crumbs that someone else paid Stormy in order to claim it was an illegal campaign contribution -- again requiring that the payment be motivated solely by the fact that Trump was running for office.
This is how they lure you into arguing about something that doesn't matter.
In the 1990s, Chinese nationals were literally dragging duffel bags of money into the Democratic National Committee as President Clinton allowed sensitive ballistic-missile guidance technology to be transferred to the Chinese government.
No charges. No independent counsel.
Clinton held illegal campaign fundraisers at the White House, where Chinese citizens handed checks directly to White House staff.
Still no charges and no independent counsel.
Videotapes of the White House fundraisers surfaced, featuring the president and vice president glad-handing campaign donors on federal property.
And again, no charges, no independent counsel.
The New York Times' response to Attorney General Janet Reno's refusal to assign an independent counsel to these textbook campaign finance violations was a forceful editorial lightly ribbing Reno for her "blunders."
"Saturday Night Live" was tougher on Reno.
"Weekend Update With Norm Macdonald," Nov. 8, 1997:
With the release of over 100 hours of videotape of President Clinton at campaign fundraisers, the pressure continues to mount on Attorney General Janet Reno to name an independent counsel to investigate the president. In addition, some senators are said to be furious that, instead of watching the videotapes, Reno has been taping over them with episodes of "Xena: Warrior Princess."
But now we're supposed to care that Trump's personal lawyer lied about a legal payment to, depending on your point of view, a mistress or an opportunistic grifter -- AND HE USED A TRUMP ORGANIZATION EMAIL ADDRESS.
Lying to the press isn't a crime, and paying money to cover up an affair isn't a crime, either, even if you're running for president. If these were crimes, John Edwards would be on death row.
As a presidential candidate in 2008, Edwards lied up a storm about getting his mistress pregnant as his wife was dying of cancer. Only through the generous support of his well-heeled donors was he able to hide his mistress from the public. This donor-funded scam went on for months, until the National Enquirer finally caught Edwards visiting his mistress and newborn baby at the Beverly Hilton.
Edwards was later charged with campaign finance violations for using campaign funds to hide the affair. The prosecution was widely ridiculed, and the jury returned a verdict of not guilty.
If that's not a violation of the campaign finance laws, then Trump's $130,000 payment to Daniels sure isn't.
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In a sane world, that ought to be all you need to know about Trump's alleged campaign finance violations. As the money-grubbing Clinton years demonstrated, federal election laws are like "No Smoking" signs in France: rules that exist only for our amusement.
But with Robert "Ahab" Mueller no closer to finding anything resembling Russian collusion, the Resistance has pinned its impeachment hopes on the most meaningless of "crimes."
Proving that the Cohen plea agreement is all about getting Trump on something -- anything! -- and not about enforcing the law, one of the crimes the government forced him to plead guilty to isn't a crime. It's not a crime by statutory definition and it's not a crime by the fact that we still have a First Amendment.
Cohen pleaded guilty to a campaign finance violation for entering into a "catch and kill" agreement with the National Enquirer's David Pecker, whereby the Enquirer would purchase, and then bury, the stories of women who claimed to have had sex with Trump, in this case, Karen McDougal.
As a definitional matter, that agreement cannot be the basis of a campaign finance violation. The government's own Sentencing Memorandum for Michael Cohen states:
"In August 2014, (Pecker) had met with Cohen and (Trump), and had offered to help deal with negative stories about (Trump's) relationships with women by identifying such stories so that they could be purchased and 'killed.'"
August 2014 is a full year before there even was a Trump campaign. It's disturbing enough to have every payment made during a campaign subject to investigation as a potential campaign finance violation. But to be finding campaign law violations before there's even a campaign is ludicrous.
And is The New York Times OK with the government hauling newspaper publishers into court and demanding that they explain why they chose to run, or not to run, a story? Liberals may dispute whether bloggers are "journalists," but the National Enquirer is the largest newspaper in the country.
If Pecker's editorial judgment can be the subject of litigation, how about prosecuting Newsweek for catching and killing Michael Isikoff's story on Monica Lewinsky?
Yes, Cohen pleaded guilty to a campaign finance violation for agreeing to pay Pecker to kill the affair stories. The government had nailed Michael Cohen on so many financial crimes (having nothing to do with Trump) that prosecutors could have gotten him to plead guilty to bearing Trump's love child. (If Cohen wants a lucrative gig after prison, how about renting out his face by the hour to smart guys who like being underestimated?)
The main thing we've learned from Cohen's guilty plea on the Enquirer deal is that these prosecutors don't mind looking silly, as long as they can get Trump.