Not as simple as all that

Philip Bump at the Post:

President Trump’s day began Monday, as many of his days do, with watching Fox News. A guest on “Fox and Friends First” — the version of the show that airs in the pre-dawn hours — argued that former FBI director James B. Comey’s Friday testimony left Democrats without a smoking gun on the question of coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign in 2016. (It wasn’t intended to; it had been demanded by congressional Republicans.) Trump seized on the comment in a pair of typo-marred tweets.

“Democrats can’t find a Smocking Gun tying the Trump campaign to Russia after James B. Comey’s testimony,” he wrote on Twitter. “…So now the Dems go to a simple private transaction, wrongly call it a campaign contribution, which it was not (but even if it was, it is only a CIVIL CASE, like Obama’s — but it was done correctly by a lawyer and there would not even be a fine. Lawyer’s liability if he made a mistake, not me). [Trump’s former personal attorney Michael] Cohen just trying to get his sentence reduced.”

There’s a lot in there, but the main message is worth picking out: Trump is actively trying to rebut questions about possible campaign finance violations in which he has been implicated.

The payments to McDougal and Daniels, he explains, violated campaign finance laws only if they had to do with the campaign.

Trump’s argument, in short, is that these payments weren’t related to the campaign. Instead, they were “a simple private transaction.”

That could be true, but we’ve learned a lot that makes it look unlikely.

In his agreement in August, Cohen testified under oath that the payments he made were undertaken “in coordination with, and at the direction of” Trump, with the goal of protecting “information that would be harmful to the candidate and to the campaign to keep the individual from disclosing the information.” Of course, this is the same Cohen who, late last month, admitted to lying under oath to Congress. (Hence Trump’s “just trying to get his sentence reduced.”)

Maybe Trump never said a word to Cohen about protecting the campaign! But then why were the prosecutors so confident in that filing?

They offer some insights in the filing itself.

“Cohen deceived the voting public by hiding alleged facts that he believed would have had a substantial effect on the election,” the filing reads, going on to note that, “[a]fter making the payment to [Daniels], and after [Trump] was elected President, Cohen privately bragged to friends and reporters, including in recorded conversations, that he had made the payment to spare [Trump] from damaging press and embarrassment.” Cohen admitted in August to coordinating the payment with AMI and the government notes that he took credit for the payment in a secretly recorded conversation with Trump.

Ah. Bit of a smocking gun perhaps? Just a wisp of smock?

There’s more, too.

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