President Trump asserted Wednesday that former attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to violations of campaign law which aren’t crimes.
“Michael Cohen plead guilty to two counts of campaign finance violations that are not a crime,” Mr. Trump tweeted. “President Obama had a big campaign finance violation and it was easily settled!”
Cohen pleaded guilty in connection with hush-money payments to two women who allege affairs with Mr. Trump. He said he made the payments at the direction of a candidate, referring to Mr. Trump.
American Conservative Union Chairman Matt Schlapp also said on CNN Wednesday that the campaign finance violations to which Cohen pleaded guilty are not crimes. Prosecutors alleged, and Cohen agreed, that the payments were a type of campaign contribution that weren’t disclosed.
Lawyer Alan Dershowitz said Cohen’s guilty plea to the campaign-finance violations doesn’t put Mr. Trump in legal jeopardy, because candidates can contribute any amount to their own campaigns.
“If [Mr. Trump] gave $1 million to two women as hush money, there would be no crime,” Mr. Dershowitz said on MSNBC. “If he directed his lawyer to do it and he would compensate the lawyer, he’s committed no crime.”
He said the only crime would be if Cohen paid the women to keep quiet on his own, and wasn’t reimbursed by Mr. Trump.
“That would be a campaign contribution,” he said. “It’s a Catch-22 for the prosecution. The law is convoluted. The president is entitled to pay hush money to anyone he wants during the campaign. There are no restrictions on what a candidate can contribute to his own campaign.”
In 2013, the Federal Election Commission fined Mr. Obama’s presidential campaign $375,000 for violating federal disclosure laws. An FEC audit of the 2008 campaign found that it failed to disclose millions of dollars in contributions.
The fine was one of the largest ever imposed by the FEC.
Mr. Trump tweeted with regretful sarcasm Wednesday about his longtime former lawyer after Cohen implicated him.
“If anyone is looking for a good lawyer, I would strongly suggest that you don’t retain the services of Michael Cohen!” the president tweeted.
In April, the president called Cohen “a fine person with a wonderful family.”
“Michael is a businessman for his own account/lawyer who I have always liked & respected,” Mr. Trump tweeted at the time.