Help Me Understand Recent Developments with President Trump.

I want to clearly understand where the crime is. It seems campaign finance rules are quite an obscure part of the law. Tell me where I am mistaken here.

  1. It is not illegal to pay off women to keep a secret. Not even if you are running for office.

  2. It is not illegal to pay off women with either personal funds nor with finance funds. But, if you used finance funds you would have to tell everyone, so that sort of defeats the purpose.

  3. The problem is that the President’s lawyer used his own money to pay off the women. This was done to aid in a campaign. This means it was a campaign contribution over the legal amount. This is a crime.

  4. The candidate asked the lawyer to do this. This is of course conspiracy.

  5. The President repaid the lawyer. This does mean the contribution was not illegal. In fact, the repayment simply shows that there was a conspiracy.

  6. The New York Post (?) paying women to keep their stories out of the news would also be an in-kind contribution. It was not reported as such, so this is a crime. But there are Freedom of the Press issues that make it unlikely anything much will come of it.

Am I mistaken on any of this?

I am going to have to stare at the typo in the title for weeks, aren’t I?

Reported it for you - you meant “Developments”, not “Develops”, right?


It was the National Enquirer, not the Post. The Enquirer is known for buying exclusive rights to stories, then not publishing them (a practice called “catch and kill”), in order to keep the stories from seeing the light of day.

And, yes, as I understand it, the practice itself isn’t illegal, it’s that it was done in the support of a presidential campaign.

The money was not reported as a campaign donation, whether from Trump’s own funds or from the Enquirer, it should have been reported to the FEC. If it exceed maximum contribution limits , that is another problem.



Correct. Also the fact that it was not reported as a contribution is a crime.

Yes. Though nobody has been charged with conspiring with Cohen about it (yet).

No, the contribution was still illegal. The repayment just means Trump was involved in making the contribution. Cohen conspired in this scheme by initially claiming the repayment was for legal services.

It’s the National Enquirer, a publication even more idiotic than the Post.

Let’s get back to #3. If Trump had paid off the women with his own funds before, during or after the campaign, would that be illegal? It would sort of be a contribution to himself.

You basically have the facts correct.

But beyond the fact of directing Cohen to commit the crime and conspiring with him to do it, is that it was not just to pay hush money, it was to pay hush money in order to influence the election.

It would be a contribution to his campaign. That’s the part you’re missing. A political campaign is a regulated legal entity and its donations and expenditures need to be documented and disclosed. If you spend money for the purpose of influencing a particular candidate’s chances to be elected, that’s a political campaign contribution.

Oh, I see.

Not quite a GQ answer, but one way to look at all of this is in the same way as legalizing criminal acts. If you have a criminal act that you believe that everyone will engage in regularly, regardless of legality, then by legalizing it you at least gain the ability to set up reporting requirements, you can impose minimum standards on the practice so that it is done with minimal possible harm, etc.

This is (in some but not all cases) the approach that Congress took to special interest payments to politicians. In many cases, you can freely give money to politicians, and that’s all perfectly above board, so long as it’s completely public, on the books, and the Press can freely go and look it up and report it about you.

And I think Trump has said it was paid so his Wife wouldn’t find out. Oppsie.

Or wait, maybe he said that about the Russian hooker pee video.

Another triumph for his management skills, then.

Yes, it would be illegal, but impossible to prosecute. That’s what let John Edwards off the hook. It’s very difficult to disentangle paying off a person with whom you cheated for campaign reasons vs. paying off a woman for personal reasons. Right now, I am neither wealthy, nor have I ever cheated on my wife, but pretend for a moment that I did. Let’s pretend that the object of my affections/lust decided to tell my wife and I give her 100 thousand dollars to go away. Obviously not a problem. Why does running for office make it a problem? The answer is that it doesn’t. In order to prove contribution malfeasance, you have to prove that the intent of paying off the lady was to influence the campaign as opposed to keeping my wife out of the loop.

That’s where this charge breaks down. Not that it will ever go to court, but Trump can claim that he was just trying to keep it a secret from Melania and that the on-going campaign was simply coincidental. It’s up to the prosecutors to prove that that wasn’t the case and that’s a very difficult thing to prove barring him literally saying that’s what he was doing. Cohen flipping is what makes this more intriguing since he is saying that he perceived this as campaign related. Trump’s defense could simply be that Cohen misperceived Trump’s intentions and this was all about saving his marriage.

EDIT – Just saw that someone had said this same thing above. Oh well. I’ll leave the post up anyway.

The two people who funneled the money for Edwards were, by the time of investigation, in no shape to testify given that one was dead and the other was 101 years old and bedridden. In Trump’s case, the primary witness is healthy and willing to talk with prosecutors.

The primary reason why this won’t amount to anything (criminally) for Trump is the uncertainty of indicting a sitting president and I doubt this is the case they’d test it on.

As soon as I left the SDMB, my next stop took me to this story:

Is it? Do you think Trump would not have paid these women off anyway? Do you think he has never paid hush money before?

The point is it’s not illegal to pay someone hush money. It only becomes illegal when it’s part of a political campaign.

Given that he waited until the tail end of the campaign to pay them off for events a decade earlier… probably not?