Home Top News President Trump defends payments to women as ‘private transaction’

President Trump defends payments to women as ‘private transaction’

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President Trump defends payments to women as ‘private transaction’


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President Donald Trump says ex-lawyer Michael Cohen is a ‘weak person’ who is ‘lying’ to get a reduced sentence.’ Trump made the comments shortly after Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about a Trump real estate deal in Russia. (Nov. 29)
AP

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump on Monday dismissed payments to alleged mistresses just before the 2016 presidential election as “a simple private transaction,” disputing claims by prosecutors that they amounted to a conspiracy to evade campaign finance laws.

While some congressional Democrats cast the payments as potential cause for impeachment, Trump said investigators are looking for something to pin on him because they have been unable to prove any collusion with Russians who sought to influence his presidential election.

“So now the Dems go to a simple private transaction, wrongly call it a campaign contribution,” Trump said during a series of early morning tweets.

Trump’s former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, is scheduled to be sentenced this week after pleading guilty to felony campaign finance violations, financial crimes and lying to Congress about Trump’s business dealings in Russia.

More: How Donald Trump’s explanation of his role with Michael Cohen and the hush money payments has changed

More: Robert Mueller: Cohen provided details ‘core’ to inquiry into Russian coordination with Trump campaign

In legal filings released Friday, prosecutors said Cohen told them that when he made the payments to the women “he acted in coordination with and at the direction of” Trump, whom they identified in the filings as “Individual 1.”

On Twitter, Trump argued that, even if the payments amounted to campaign contributions, they would constitute a civil case, not a criminal one, and “there would not even be a fine.”

The Federal Election Commission handles campaign-finance violations that aren’t “willful violations” or that involve smaller sums through civil enforcement provisions, which are typically fines.

A key Democrat said the payoff scheme could amount to an impeachable offense.

“Whether they are important enough to justify an impeachment is a different question,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., who is expected to chair the House Judiciary Committee when Democrats take control of the House next year, on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Trump has repeatedly denied that he directed his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, to pay hush money to women who claimed to have had affairs with him.

Trump has accused Cohen of lying in an effort to get his sentence reduced following his guilty pleas.

In his tweets, Trump again compared his situation to one involving President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign. The campaign was fined $375,000 by the Federal Election Commission for regulatory civil violations that included missing filing deadlines for disclosing large donations late in the election cycle, reporting wrong dates for some contributions, and not returning excessive donations quickly enough.

Legal analysts said the allegations against Trump could amount to a felony because it amounts to a conspiracy to conceal payments from campaign contribution reports – and from the voters.

Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti said Obama’s violation “consisted of failing to submit certain forms in time,” while the Trump allegations involve large payments through shell companies and his lawyer.

“The former is negligent and the latter is knowing and willful,” he said. “That is the difference – the mental state required.”

Back in August, Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign finance felonies and told a judge that Trump directed illegal payments “for the principal purpose of influencing the election” for president in 2016.

The investigation of payoffs is separate from the other being conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russian influence in the 2016 election, though Cohen is also cooperating with Mueller’s office.

In other filings on Friday, Mueller’s office said Cohen is providing his office “with useful information concerning certain discrete Russia-related matters core to its investigation.”

More: Five bombshells from the Michael Cohen memos, including information he’s given Mueller

In assessing possible impeachment hearings, Nadler cited on CNN evidence of repeated contacts between Trump’s campaign and Russians.

“The fact of the matter is that what we see from these indictments and charging statements is a much broader conspiracy against the American people involving these payments, involving an attempt to influence the campaign improperly, with improper payments involving the Russians trying to get influence in the campaign,” Nadler said.

In his tweets, which included misspellings, Trump quoted a Fox News reports saying that “Democrats can’t find a Smocking Gun tying the Trump campaign to Russia after James Comey’s testimony. No Smocking Gun…No Collusion.”

He meant to say “smoking gun.”

More: Feds: Ex-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen should get ‘substantial prison term’

More: ‘Thank you’: Donald Trump claims vindication after Mueller investigation updates

 

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