Former President Donald Trump thanked the Federal Elections Commission on Friday for dropping a “phony” probe into his 2016 campaign.
The panel voted Thursday to end the investigation into hush money paid by former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen to porn star Stormy Daniels.
“The Federal Election Commission in Washington, D.C., has totally dropped the phony case against me concerning payments to women relative to the 2016 Presidential Election,” Mr. Trump, who is banned from Twitter, said in a formal statement. “It was a case built on lies from Michael Cohen, a corrupt and convicted lawyer, a lawyer in fact who was so corrupt he was sentenced to three years in jail for lying to Congress and many other things having nothing to do with me.”
The FEC panel said it failed to find that Mr. Trump or his campaign “knowingly and willfully” violated campaign-finance law when Mr. Cohen paid $130,000 in October 2016 to the adult actress whose real name is Stephanie Clifford and who says she had had an affair with the real estate tycoon earlier that decade.
Two Republican members on the six-member panel said the probe wasn’t a good use of resources, though a pair of Democratic members disagreed and said they wanted to move forward.
“To conclude that a payment, made 13 days before Election Day to hush up a suddenly newsworthy 10-year-old story, was not campaign-related, without so much as conducting an investigation, defies reality,” Chair Shana Broussard and Commissioner Ellen L. Weintraub said in a statement.
One Republican member recused himself, and one Democrat on the panel was absent, so there wasn’t a majority to support moving forward.
Mr. Cohen, who served prison time after pleading guilty to charges connected to the probe, says he deeply regrets showing loyalty to Mr. Trump as his longtime “fixer.”
Common Cause, a left-leaning watchdog group, highlighted the disparity between Mr. Trump
’s situation and that of Crystal Mason, the Texas woman sentenced to prison for casting a provisional ballot while on supervised release for a federal tax fraud conviction. She says she didn’t know she was ineligible.
“But former Attorney General Bill Barr — and now Republican FEC
Commissioners Sean Cooksey and Trey Trainor — have blocked investigation and enforcement of Trump’s violations,” said Paul S. Ryan, Common Cause’s vice president for policy and litigation. “Now it’s up to the Department of Justice (DOJ) to hold Trump
accountable and make clear that no one is above the law. The clock is ticking; a five-year statute of limitations for Trump’s campaign finance crimes gives the DOJ only five more months to prosecute these crimes.”
• Victor Morton contributed to this story.