Donald Trump may have been trying to persuade his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, that he has his longtime confidant and self-described fixer’s back. Trump’s decision to pardon a Nixon Watergate criminal, Scooter Libby, was oddly timed, so that could have been a hint of future pardons. Yet, 45’s latest action probably stepped over the line into illegal.
Cohen wanted to go with the commander-in-chief to Washington, D.C., and even told the president how much he missed him. That sounded more like an abusive relationship: an endless cycle of kindness followed by cruelty.
Now, it seems that the Trump campaign dished out almost $228,000 to handle a portion of Cohen’s rising legal fees, a source close to ABC News said. It is illegal to violate campaign finance laws, and this might fall right into that category.
Federal Election Commission (FEC) records indicated that Trump’s campaign paid three payments to Cohen’s attorney’s law firm. In the months between October 2017 and January 2018, the campaign paid for “legal consulting.” Coincidence? Maybe not.
Cohen has long held that he was not formally a member of the campaign. Yet, Trump and Cohen may have stepped into the trap that led to the ruin of former presidential candidate, John Edwards — using campaign funds for personal use.
The FEC holds that spending campaign funds on personal use is illegal:
‘That would exist irrespective of the candidate’s campaign or responsibilities as a federal officeholder.’
Chief of strategy for the nonprofit watchdog organization Common Cause, Stephen Spaulding, said they were “pushing the envelope:”
‘They’re on shaky legal ground. It sounds like they are really pushing the envelope … If the campaign were to say they are campaign-related payments, then maybe it’s okay to use campaign funds. But he can’t have it both ways.’
The campaign may have paid for legal fees strictly related to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s attack on the 2016 presidential election and any Trump campaign involvement. If so, there would be no problem.
However, if those legal fees were paid for services related to the adult film actress and producer, Stormy Daniels’, case against Trump and/or Cohen, that could spell trouble. Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, and her attorney, Michael Avenatti, have sued to release her from a nondisclosure agreement with the president and defamation of character.
Cohen’s attorney, Stephen Ryan, is a partner in the law firm. He represented the president’s attorney on both issues.
Trump did not disagree with the contention that Daniels and he had sex. However, Cohen paid her $130,000 in hush money. She was later threatened to keep quiet by a strange man as she lifted her daughter from an infant car seat.
ABC sources said that the legal work was not for the Daniels issue.
Donors set up the Patriot Legal Defense fund to help with former campaign staff members and those in his administration pay for legal bills surrounding the Russia investigation. The fund will not disclose who benefitted from these funds, but Cohen should not be able to qualify.
The president and his close family members cannot benefit from the fund. either. Former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, refused to accept money from that source. He did flip and provide state’s evidence.
Featured Image via Getty Images/Mandel Ngan.