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Not Guilty? Former FEC Commissioner Says Cohen and Trump Didn't Violate Campaign Finance Law

Not Guilty? Former FEC Commissioner Says Cohen and Trump Didn't Violate Campaign Finance Law Read Transcript


- A former member of theFederal Election Commission,

Hans von Spakovskyagrees with the president

and he joins us now.

Hans, thanks so much for being here.

- Sure, thanks for having me.

- Set this up for our viewers.

What is this campaign finance law

and why do you say DonaldTrump did not violate it?

- It's called the FederalElection Campaign Act

and it governs the raising of money

and the spending of moneyfor all federal campaigns.

It's anyone running forCongress or the presidency.

Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty

to a supposed violation of that law

because of payments that were made,

I guess you call them hush money payments,

to two women who were claiming

that they had had affairswith the president.

The problem with his guilty plea is

that those paymentsaren't covered by the law.

The only way these kind of expenses

are covered under the law

is if they are campaign related expenses.

And these are notcampaign related expenses.

This is a potential personalliability of the president

and you actually can't use campaign funds,

money that you've raisedfrom campaign contributors,

to pay for something like that.

- Well you had mentioned and quoted

Federal Election CommissionChairman Brad Smith,

who said that these payments to women

- Right.- were unseemly,

but they're not necessarily illegal.

- Yeah, and that's the key thing

for people to keep in mind here.

We're talking about whatis an actual violation

of federal law.

And this is not something

that the Federal Election Commission,

and that's the independent agency

that is supposed to enforcethis law on a civil basis

and that's where I used toserve as a commissioner.

It does not consider thatthese kind of payments

are related to a campaign.

Therefore, the rules andregulations don't apply

to how that kind of a payment is made.

- Do any of Michael Cohen's

or the president's actions, Hans,

constitute a civil offense?

- No, I don't think they do,

and they certainly don'tconstitute a criminal offense.

Why?

Well because, under the law,

to prove a criminal violationof the campaign finance law,

you have to prove that it was a knowing

and willful violation.

You can't prove that

when you have formerFEC commissioners saying

it's not a violation of the law.

You have the FEC saying it'snot a violation of the law.

That raises great doubts about it,

and so how can anyone befound to have willfully

and knowingly violated the law?

- Michael Cohen, hesays that this was done

to sway the election,

so doesn't that make itcampaign related, Hans?

- No, it doesn't, and here's why.

There's another provision of the law,

and this is something that the US Attorney

in New York is essentially ignoring.

There's another provisionof the law that says

that an expenditure or anexpense is not campaign related

if it's an expense that would exist

whether or not you're running for office.

And that's why this isnot a campaign expense.

This is the kind of claim

that celebrities of allkinds get fairly often

and it was not dependent

on the president running for office.

Yeah, it might affect his reputation

and it might affect the election,

but that does not necessarily make it

a campaign related expenseunder the applicable statute.

- Hans, one last question for you.

If this case, and Ihope I'm not getting you

to step outside of your lane too much,

but if this case isn't basedon campaign finance violations,

what's the case that prosecutors,you believe, have here?

- Well, remember, this wasonly one of four offenses

that Cohen pleaded guilty to.

The more serious charges were tax evasion

and financial fraud in applications

that he submitted to a bank.

You know, he also pleadedguilty to lying to Congress.

But the real offense here,

the one that was mostserious, was tax evasion,

and that's why he was facing, potentially,

a lot of time in jail because of that.

- All right, Hans von Spakovsky

from the Heritage Foundation,thank you so much.

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