December 14, 2018

Cohen Sentenced to Three Years in Prison

We're officially on Insta! Did I throw on a blazer at 5 am for all you lovely people? You bet I did!

“Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s one-time fixer, was sentenced Wednesday to three years in prison for crimes that included arranging the payment of hush money to conceal his boss’ alleged sexual affairs… [in addition] the parent company of the National Enquirer acknowledged dispensing some of the hush money in concert with the Trump campaign.”

AP News

See past issues

From the Left

The left believes there is clear evidence implicating Trump in a federal crime.

“The ‘knowing and willful’ standard for felony campaign-finance violations provides a loophole in enforcement large enough to drive a parade of Mack trucks through. But in this case, there’s a large and growing body of evidence that the violation was deliberate…

“Cohen lied to obtain the funds necessary for the payments. He was reimbursed by the Trump Organization, which falsely labeled them ‘legal expenses.’ Prosecutors have said that Cohen ‘acted in coordination with and at the direction of’ Trump, and that Cohen ‘coordinated his actions with one or more members of the campaign’… While state of mind is difficult to determine, people do not typically go to great lengths to hide conduct they believe is legal.”

The Atlantic

Moreover, “now that he has been hit with the cold reality of a three-year prison sentence, Cohen might find that extra spark of motivation to cooperate on topics that he previously declined to discuss…

"There is a mechanism, known as Rule 35, by which prosecutors can seek a reduction of a defendant's initial sentence if that defendant provides additional cooperation. Cohen clearly cannot expect a pardon from the President… so Rule 35 may be his only hope for reducing his time behind bars.”


Some note that whether the end result is more like Watergate or the Lewinsky affair depends on the results of the Mueller investigation.

“If… Mueller doesn’t manage to connect the dots and show meaningful Trump campaign collusion with Russia during election, and if there is no impeachment proceeding brought against Trump, it seems likely that collective historical memory will move Trump’s Daniels-related conduct into the Clinton category… But if Mueller comes up with specifics and Trump is indeed impeached, the Cohen material will certainly become part of the impeachment proceedings.”


“The Russia investigation could — could! — end up being Trump’s salvation... For every incremental new revelation about criminal activity by people related to the campaign or for every new development in the hush-money story, the immediate rejoinder from Trump and his base is consistent: Where’s the collusion? Show me the collusion…

“[Imagine] that the Russia investigation didn’t exist and that these campaign finance allegations — and Trump’s evolving misrepresentations about what happened — were the most significant issue the president faced. He’d still have defenders, but the direct pressure he faced would probably be more significant.”

Washington Post

Trump's “goal, it seems, is to put so much pressure on Tehran that it has no choice but to completely change its behavior — but he could end up leading the countries to the brink of war in the process… Now is typically the time when cooler heads prevail, but it’s unclear if there are cooler heads around… It’s hard to overstate how avoidable this situation was.”
Alex Ward, Vox

“In theory, there’s no reason why a bad businessman can’t go on to become a good president. But a commander-in-chief whose signature legislative achievement expanded tax loopholes that he himself describes as grossly unfair is pretty much a bad president, by definition.”
Eric Levitz, New York Magazine

From the Right

The right argues that despite Cohen’s guilty plea, the payments in question were not campaign expenditures and therefore not criminal

From the Right

The right argues that despite Cohen’s guilty plea, the payments in question were not campaign expenditures and therefore not criminal

One former FEC member writes, “Cohen was ‘persuaded’ to plead guilty to an action that was not an actual violation of the law… the only time the Justice Department has ever tried to make such a claim before... the Justice Department lost. Furthermore, the Federal Election Commission… didn’t consider the hush-money donations to the Edwards campaign to be campaign-related expenditures when it audited the Edwards campaign.”

Fox News

A former FEC Chairman adds, “one of the primary factors separating campaign funds from personal funds is that the former must be spent on the candidate’s campaign, while the latter can be used to buy expensive vacations, cars, watches, furs, and such… This was done specifically to prevent candidates from claiming that things that benefitted them personally were done because they would also benefit the campaign…

“Mr. Trump had many valid, non-electoral reasons for trying to keep these allegations quiet, most notably family harmony, protecting family members… and preserving his future viability as a television personality in case he lost the election. Indeed, it is quite probable that many of those now baying for Trump’s scalp for illegal campaign contributions would be leading a charge to prosecute Trump for illegal ‘personal use’ of campaign funds had he made the payments from his campaign treasury.”

National Review

Beyond the issue of whether the payments were campaign expenditures, “there are major legal obstacles to Trump’s prosecution. One is whether he had the requisite intent of violating the law, and here the standard is very high. Trump can plausibly plead ignorance of the niceties of the law and say he was relying on the advice of his lawyer…

“The idea that Trump is going to lose reelection in November 2020, then having suffered the humiliation of getting booted by the voters, get indicted and stand trial on a dubious campaign-finance violation dating from 2016 is fantastical… Instead of a dastardly scheme to participate with the Russians in the hacking of Democratic emails to subvert the election, prosecutors have uncovered a dastardly scheme to try to keep from the voters — as if they weren’t aware — that Trump is a womanizer with low scruples.”


Worth noting: “many Republicans never liked and continue to oppose current campaign finance laws. They don't approve of limits on contributions by individuals, corporations, and others — they view those limits as restrictions on constitutionally-protected speech… Given that, many Republicans favor interpreting the law in the most limited way possible.”

Washington Examiner

Some argue, “It stands to reason that if Kim is willing to starve his own people, deprive his economy of any growth, and pour billions of dollars into missile tech, he will, at some point, develop weapons America and its allies mastered decades ago. And short of an invasion or a diplomatic agreement, under the present circumstances, there is very little we can do to stop him… Taking a hardline approach—what many call the ‘big deal’—or only granting sanctions relief after full denuclearization and the end of Kim’s missile programs is completely impractical and something North Korea would never agree to… only a step-by-step process of disarming Pyongyang, where each side gets a benefit for making a concession, will work.”
Harry J. Kazianis, The American Conservative

Others posit that “the reason Kim is developing missiles that can strike Seattle or LA is that 28,000 U.S. troops are in South Korea… If we cannot persuade Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons in return for a lifting of sanctions, perhaps we should pull U.S. forces off the peninsula and let China deal with the possible acquisition of their own nuclear weapons by Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan…

“After an exhausting two weeks [between North Korea, Iran, Venezuela, and others], one is tempted to ask: How many quarrels, clashes and conflicts can even a superpower manage at one time? And is it not the time for the United States, preoccupied with so many crises, to begin asking, ‘Why is this our problem?’”
Pat Buchanan, Townhall

Counterpoint: “after the War of 1812, President Madison… enacted the Tariff of 1816 to price British textiles out of competition, so Americans would build the new factories and capture the booming U.S. market. It worked. Tariffs [also] financed Mr. Lincoln’s War. The Tariff of 1890 bears the name of Ohio Congressman and future President William McKinley, who said that a foreign manufacturer ‘has no right or claim to equality with our own… He pays no taxes. He performs no civil duties’… [A tariff’s] purpose is not just to raise revenue but to make a nation economically independent of others, and to bring its citizens to rely upon each other rather than foreign entities.”
Patrick J. Buchanan, The American Conservative

A libertarian's take

“The scoop reflects poorly on Trump, who willfully misled the public for a decade in hopes of fraudulently representing himself as a man with a Midas touch. But he could not have succeeded without the assistance of many Americans, some mercenary, others over-credulous, who helped to spread the deceit and deception, generating countless newspaper articles, magazine stories, and TV segments that misinformed the public about the publicity hound’s record in business. New evidence of his staggering losses in that decade therefore provides an apt occasion to reflect on the media’s complicity in Trump’s brazen deceit and deception… Let [this] be a lesson for today’s tabloids, gossip columnists, over-credulous or mercenary journalists, and reality-television producers.”
Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic

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