Liberals across the nation are squirming in their seats with glee at the latest news that President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, struck a plea deal with prosecutors that involved violating campaign finance laws related to a payment to porn star Stormy Daniels.
Not so fast.
As conservative talk radio star Mark Levin made clear Tuesday, through an interview with a former Federal Elections Commission chairman, the Cohen plea bargain is not exactly the slam dunk against Trump that it’s being portrayed by the mainstream media.
Cohen agreed to plead guilty to eight criminal counts of tax evasion (five counts), making a false statement to a financial institution (one count), and campaign finance violations (two counts), according to The Wall Street Journal.
It’s the campaign finance charges that have liberals going bananas. But Cohen only pleaded to them, Levin said, to avoid prosecution on even more charges.
“Prosecutors and Cohen cut a deal. It’s a plea bargain,” Levin said, according to Conservative Review. “It’s not a precedent. … They obviously had more on Michael Cohen, or Michael Cohen wouldn’t have cut a deal.”
More to the point, Levin said, Cohen’s guilty plea to campaign finance charges don’t mean there was an actual violation of the law.
And it wasn’t just Levin. Bradley Smith, a Clinton-appointed member of FEC from 2000 to 2005 and its chairman in 2004, agreed.
Early in the interview with Levin, in response to a hypothetical situation Levin described, Bradley said a payment such as the one involving Cohen, which related to behavior that took place prior to a potential candidate’s political campaign, “should not be” considered a campaign violation
In the interview, Smith — the former chairman of the FEC, remember — makes the point over and over again that just the fact that an expenditure might help a candidate’s public image does not make every penny a candidate spends a matter of campaign finance law.
The whole interview is worth listening to, but the heart of Levin’s questioning comes about the 2:45 mark.
“The argument seems to be and it hasn’t changed is that if I spend money to make myself look better or to take away negative issues in my private life, my business life, my employment life, and use my own money, that somehow that is a campaign contribution, correct?”
Smith agrees, “Right.”
Levin confirms, “Which is it’s not.”
And Smith again validates, “That’s right, it’s not.”
Clearly, no matter Cohen might have agreed to to avoid other forms of prosecution, the alleged “campaign finance violation” is incredibly weak.
Then Levin, a constitutional lawyer who served in the Reagan Justice Department, went deeper to ask how much weight Cohen’s conviction would carry in future legal proceedings.
Smith’s answer, basically, was not much.
Levin asked: “Does this have judicial precedent? Stare decisis? Is it controlling in any way on any future case in that respect?”
“No, it’s not the same as if you had a judgment from the court,” he said. “Defining this as a campaign expenditure. It’s a plea bargain. People plea bargain for lots of reasons and one of the big reasons is that they plea bargain down to lesser charge to get a lesser penalty for pleading to something. …
“Sometimes they plea bargain to one charge because the penalty for that is less than the other thing they would be charged with. There are lots of reasons why people plea bargain, but bottom line is just as you said, it’s not judicial precedent that you can cite in court to prove the law of a case.”
The interview is loaded with reasons why the liberal media’s evident delight in Tuesday’s Cohen plea deal is as misplaced as all the media’s previous certainties that whatever the latest scandal was, it was going to be the one to bring Trump down.
Is it good news for the president that his former attorney has pleaded guilty to eight counts of criminal behavior? Obviously not.
But is it the legal crisis that Chuck Todd at MSNBC and the rest of the liberal media are pretending it is?
A guy who used to be in charge of the Federal Elections Commission doesn’t think so.
And he knows a little more about it than Chuck Todd.
Until such time as liberals come up with something of substance for to go after the present administration, it’s my opinion that there is probably a lot of really important news on which to focus.
And while we turn our attentions there, we can also enjoy a better economy, higher employment numbers and hopefully celebrate an upcoming confirmation of a constitutional conservative to the Supreme Court.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: