Wednesday, May 2, 2018

What did Donald Trump do today?

He admitted via his lawyer that he had lied about the Stormy Daniels hush money payments--and may have been implicated in crimes in the process.

In an interview with Sean Hannity tonight, Trump's new lead lawyer Rudy Giuliani said that Trump had reimbursed his "fixer" Michael Cohen for the $130,000 in hush money that Cohen paid porn actress Stormy Daniels. He said that the money had been "funneled through a law firm... over a period of months" A stunned Hannity replied, "Oh, I didn't know--that he did."

Neither did anyone outside of Trump's inner circle--in part because less than a month ago, Trump flatly denied knowing anything whatsoever about Cohen's payment to Daniels. 

Giuliani insisted that because "no campaign money" was used, no laws were broken. In fact, this is far from clear. As the candidate, Trump was allowed to donate an unlimited amount of money to his own campaign, including "in-kind" contributions like hush money to women he had extramarital affairs with. But this money still has to be reported: the whole point of campaign disclosure laws is to keep campaigns from being influenced by secret, untraceable money. And Trump eventually reimbursing Cohen does not mean that Cohen's payment of the hush money--which was made just before the election--wasn't illegal in the first place.

In the same interview, Giuliani called the FBI agents who conducted the seizure of Cohen's records "stormtroopers." Giuliani, a former US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, once supervised FBI agents from the same office that conducted the raid. "Stormtroopers" is a reference to the German Sturmabteilung, the paramilitary shock troops of the Nazi Party. Trump is unlikely to object: he once compared US intelligence agencies to Nazis for their work in uncovering Russia's sabotage of the election on his behalf.

Trump had authorized Giuliani to speak about the Cohen-Daniels payments, and was pleased with the performance--at least, according to Giuliani.

Why should I care about this?

  • It's not okay for the president to lie to the public just to avoid personal embarrassment.
  • Presidents who have secrets like this to keep can be manipulated.
  • It's bad if a presidential candidate is willing to bend or break the laws that keep American elections honest.
  • A president who will tolerate underlings who compare the FBI to Nazis is unfit to lead the executive branch.