Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Steve Hilton: Hey, Trump haters (on both sides) could you just admit that this is a successful presidency?




Something caught my eye this past week. It was an official meeting in Europe of the Paris Climate Accord process, which, of course, President Trump pulled America out of. When a U.S. representative took the stage to explain our position, he was jeered and laughed at - loudly.

How very strange. You know how climate change activists never stop going on about believing in the science and how facts matter. Then why aren't they cheering the United States, instead of jeering?

In the evil populist "Trump's America," here's what happened to energy-related carbon emissions: In 2017, they fell by 0.5 percent. But in the saintly globalist European Union, they went up by 1.5 percent in the same period. In fact, per-capita carbon emissions in Trump's America are nearly at a 70-year low.

It turns out energy deregulation does more to fight climate change than going to conferences. I guess you might call that an “inconvenient truth." This one's pretty inconvenient if you're the kind of person that goes around saying Trump is a fake populist, that he's not doing anything to help the forgotten men and women in this country.

"All he had time for was celebrities, and now suddenly he's acting like he's a populist out there," former President Obama once said. "'Man, I'm going to fight for working people.' ... Come on, man!"

And former Vice President Joe Biden said the following at the Democratic National Convention in 2016: "He’s trying to tell us he cares about the middle class. Give me a break! That’s a bunch of malarkey!”

"Malarkey?" I want Joe Biden run in 2020 just so we can hear more of that word.

Look, America's poverty rate was lower in President Trump’s first year than at any point in the Obama administration.

Okay. Whatever, you Trump haters are probably saying. But of course the middle class was screwed by the Trump tax cuts that only helped the rich, right?

Oh wait. The Trump tax cuts doubled the standard deduction to $12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for families. That's a huge change that takes millions of Americans out of federal income tax altogether and has effectively increased incomes for middle class families across the country.

What else helps the middle class? Jobs. But of course that "idiot" Trump couldn’t create them.

“When somebody says - like the person you just mentioned that I'm not going to advertise for - that he’s going to bring all these jobs back. Well, how exactly are you going to do that?" Obama once said. "He just says, 'Well, I’m going to negotiate a better deal.' Well, what - how - exactly are you going to negotiate that? What magic wand do you have?”

Yeah, Trump, what magic wand do you have? I don’t know, maybe just better economic policy. The kind that results in the lowest unemployment rate since 1969. And the lowest African-American unemployment ever.

Also, wasn't Trump going to crash the economy? Hillary Clinton thought so, telling an audience, "Economists - left, right, and center - all agree: Donald Trump will drive America back into recession."

Left, right and center, inconvenient truth, Hillary. Even the New York times just gave Trump credit for the fact that the U.S. economy is on track for its “best annual performance since 2005.”

Alright, whatever. Jobs and growth ... but Trump still isn't delivering his promises to working people. I mean, after decades of stagnation, incomes are still flat, aren't they?

“A key thing we’ve been looking at for quite a while that doesn’t seem to be moving much are wages," CBS correspondent Anthony Mason said on-air.

Oh dear. That turns out not be true any more. Wages have risen all the way through the last two years and were up 3.1 percent in the last quarter – the highest level in a decade.

Fine. But it's all going to be ruined, isn't it, by Trump's crazy trade war with China? In fact, the elitists seem to hate Trump so much, they even took China's side. Remember how they thrilled to the brutal autocrat Xi Jinping at Davos last year? They just lapped up his speech on the virtues of globalization. The president of the EU-owned European Investment Bank said, "In these times of a lack of leadership, particularly in Europe, it was quite impressive."

Oooh President Xi! You're quite impressive!

What's actually happening is that President Trump's pressure is working. China is on the back foot, making trade concessions, and now pledging to drop its "Made in China 2025" program, which was Xi Jinping's grand plan to achieve world domination in the industries of the future.

We'll see if they mean it. But even the fact that they're saying it is a major victory for that "idiot" Trump, who obviously doesn't know what he's doing. Just like with North Korea, remember?

It was outgoing President Obama who told President-elect Donald Trump that North Korea would be his number one problem. Trump actually listened to him, did something about it, and turned our relationship around in a way that has made the world incomparably safer.

We'll never persuade the Trump haters on the left and the right to change their feelings about the president. They just can't stand him.

And then, just this past week, we saw incredibly important substantive progress from this administration. Major criminal justice reform, led by Jared Kushner, is now looking good for passage in the Senate. A major new effort to revitalize urban America and rebuild low-income neighborhoods is being led by Ben Carson. And there's a highly significant new strategy from John Bolton to fight China's attempted colonization of Africa.

On top of that, America last week became a net oil exporter for the first time in 75 years, enabling us to reduce the global influence of dodgy regimes in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Yeah, but he's still an idiot, though. isn't he? He's still Trump.

Look, the point here is this: We'll never persuade the Trump haters on the left and the right to change their feelings about the president. They just can't stand him. And more than anything, it's aesthetic. They find him vulgar ... not to their taste.

Fine. But could you just focus on the facts? Could you just acknowledge - even for a day or so over Christmas - that on the facts, on policy, on the substance, that this is, so far, a pretty successful presidency?

Adapted from Steve Hilton's monologue from "The Next Revolution" on December 16, 2018.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Our Ignorance of Socialism Is Dangerous

By Walter E. Williams / The Daily Signal


A recent Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation survey found that 51 percent of American millennials would rather live in a socialist or communist country than in a capitalist country. Only 42 percent prefer the latter.

Twenty-five percent of millennials who know who Vladimir Lenin was view him favorably. Lenin was the first premier of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Half of millennials have never heard of communist Mao Zedong, who ruled China from 1949 to 1959 and was responsible for the deaths of 45 million Chinese people.

The number of people who died at the hands of Josef Stalin may be as high as 62 million. However, almost one-third of millennials think former President George W. Bush is responsible for more killings than Stalin.

By the way, Adolf Hitler, head of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, was responsible for the deaths of about 20 million people. The Nazis come in as a poor third in terms of history’s most prolific mass murderers. According to professor Rudolph Rummel’s research, the 20th century, mankind’s most brutal century, saw 262 million people’s lives destroyed at the hands of their own governments.

Young people who weren’t alive during World War II and its Cold War aftermath might be forgiven for not knowing the horrors of socialism. Some of their beliefs represent their having been indoctrinated by their K-12 teachers and college professors.

There was such leftist hate for Bush that it’s not out of the question that those 32 percent of millennials were taught by their teachers and professors that Bush murdered more people than Stalin.

America’s communists, socialists, and Marxists have little knowledge of socialist history. Bradley Birzer, a professor of history at Hillsdale College, explains this in an article for The American Conservative titled “Socialists and Fascists Have Always Been Kissing Cousins.”

Joseph Goebbels wrote in 1925, “It would be better for us to end our existence under Bolshevism than to endure slavery under capitalism.” This Nazi sentiment might be shared by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and his comrade Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. Goebbels added, “I think it is terrible that we and the communists are bashing in each other’s heads.”

When the tragedies of socialist regimes—such as those in Venezuela, the USSR, China, Cuba, and many others—are pointed out to America’s leftists, they hold up Sweden as their socialist role model. But they are absolutely wrong about Sweden.

Johan Norberg points this out in his documentary “Sweden: Lessons for America?” Americans might be surprised to learn that Sweden’s experiment with socialism was a relatively brief flirtation, lasting about 20 years and ending in disillusionment and reform.

Reason magazine reports:

Sweden began rolling back government in the early 1990s, recapturing the entrepreneurial spirit that made it a wealthy country to begin with. High taxation and a generous array of government benefits are still around. But now it’s also a nation of school vouchers, free trade, open immigration, light business regulation, and no minimum wage laws.

School vouchers, light business regulation, and no minimum wage laws are practices deeply offensive to America’s leftists.

Our young people are not the first Americans to admire tyrants and cutthroats. W.E.B. Du Bois, writing in the National Guardian in 1953, said, “Stalin was a great man; few other men of the 20th century approach his stature.” Walter Duranty called Stalin “the greatest living statesman” and “a quiet, unobtrusive man.”

There was even leftist admiration for Hitler and fellow fascist Benito Mussolini. When Hitler came to power in January 1933, George Bernard Shaw described him as “a very remarkable man, a very able man.” President Franklin Roosevelt called Mussolini “admirable,” and he was “deeply impressed by what he [had] accomplished.”

In 1972, John Kenneth Galbraith visited communist China and praised Mao and the Chinese economic system. His Harvard University colleague John K. Fairbank believed that America could learn much from the Cultural Revolution, saying, “Americans may find in China’s collective life today an ingredient of personal moral concern for one’s neighbor that has a lesson for us all.”

Are Americans who admire the world’s most brutal regimes miseducated or stupid? Or do they have some kind of devious agenda?

Sunday, December 16, 2018

NBC News' Mika Brzezinski problem


By Larry O'Connor - The Washington Times

MSNBC television anchor Mika Brzezinski, co-host of the show "Morning Joe". (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

It was just 12 months ago that NBC News found it no longer feasible to retain Matt Lauer’s services as morning anchor of “Today.” The tidal wave of harassment accusations against their multi-million dollar investment had quickly reached critical mass and Mr. Lauer was sent packing.

As the hazmat-clad maintenance teams began to disinfect his crime scene of an office (including a creepy door-lock button concealed under his desk in the spirit of your favorite Bond villain), it was an opportune time for the peacock network to assess the damage of a troubling year.

#MeToo was not kind to the suits at 30 Rock. It could have and should have been their story as reporter Ronan Farrow gave NBC News Chairman Andy Lack first dibs on the eventual blockbuster about Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein. Mr. Lack passed on Mr. Farrow’s Pulitzer winner for what appears to be dubious reasons related to either business connections between NBC/Universal and Mr. Weinstein, or out of fear of a libel lawsuit from the same.

Either way, NBC News’s image was tarnished by the story they refused to run. Within weeks their own political commentator Mark Halperin was fingered as a serial #MeToo perpetrator. Mr. Halperin, who was featured on an almost daily basis on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” was quickly dispatched with hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinskidenying any knowledge of their colleague’s behavior.

This year has brought allegations against former anchor and elder statesman Tom Brokaw and revealing details on how Mr. Lack rebuffed Mr. Farrow’s entreaties to run the Weinstein expose which featured conflicting accounts of the decision-making process.

All this is the backdrop to the latest problem the venerable network faces in its news department. In short, how to handle a problem called Mika?

This Wednesday, Ms. Brzezinski used an anti-gay slur in describing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, calling him a “wannabe dictator’s butt-boy.”

When Ms. Brzezinski faced criticism from political allies who took exception to using a homosexual act as a form of insult, Ms. Brzezinski apologized on Twitter, sort of, and was conspicuously absent from her program Thursday morning.

So, what does NBC do?

Sadly, the network has another pattern of behavior to overcome. Well before Ms. Brzezinski’s anti-gay slur, Alec Baldwin used an even more two-word offensive two-word phrase in 2013 in one of his usual rage-filled shouting matches with a photographer, (you know, a member of the news media, one of the guardians of the truth lionized by Time Magazine this week). The first word, an “-ing” participle, begins with “c” and the second, a noun, begins with “f.”

Mr. Baldwin is still an NBC employee and appears regularly on “Saturday Night Live.”

This past year, MSNBC anchor Joy Reid’s habit of using multiple gay slurs on her blog and Twitter feed several years ago came to light. At first Ms. Reid denied she had used the offensive terms and falsely claimed her blog had been hacked. In the end, the lies about a hack were exposed by multiple tech bloggers and Ms. Reid was forced to apologize, sort of, for the slurs she still maintains she can’t remember making.

Ms. Reid is still an employee in good standing with NBC News appearing as host of a weekly weekend news program.

And now Ms. Brzezinski uses a gay slur on the air while hosting an MSNBC program.

A pattern of behavior indeed.

If NBC wanted to send a clear message and show that they no longer have tolerance for this type of behavior, they could send it loud and clear by dismissing Ms. Brzezinski. And that’s where things get very complicated.

You see, Ms. Brzezinski recently married Mr. Scarborough. Can NBC even consider firing Ms. Brzezinski at this point? How can they without alienating her co-host, her husband? How can NBC function as a responsible employer in this situation?

Furthermore, how did the Brzezinski/Scarborough pairing even occur? They were married co-workers when the program was launched several years ago. Married to other people, to be exact. Somewhere along the way they fell in love, which is wonderful for them. But, at some point, one of them had to “make a move” on the other. What if it had been rebuffed? Isn’t it fair to say the Brzezinski/Scarborough affair is really just another NBC News #MeToo story that ended with a “happily ever after” instead of a lawsuit?

Either way, NBC has a Mika problem. Which is also a Joe problem. Which is also a Joy problem. And is also an Alec problem.

Ultimately, they are all Andy Lack problems. And at some point, he needs to seriously address them.

Larry O’Connor writes about politics and the media for The Washington Times and can be heard weekday afternoons on WMAL radio in Washington. Follow Larry on Twitter @LarryOConnor.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Financial Bounty Hunters Testify: Clinton Foundation Operated As Foreign Agent


By Sara Carter 


The Clinton Foundation operated as a foreign agent ‘early in its life’ and ‘throughout it’s existence’ and did not operate as a 501c3 charitable foundation as required, and is not entitled to its status as a nonprofit, alleged two highly qualified forensic investigators, accompanied by three other investigators, said in explosive testimony Thursday to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

John Moynihan and Lawerence W. Doyle, both graduates of the Catholic Jesuit College of the Holy Cross and former expert forensic government investigators, gave their shocking testimony before congress based on a nearly two year investigation into the foundation’s work both nationally and internationally. They were assisted by three other highly trained experts in taxation law and financial forensic investigations. The forensic investigators stressed that they obtained all the documentation on the foundation legally and through Freedom of Information Request Acts from the IRS and other agencies.

Former Utah U.S. Attorney General John Huber, who resigned when he was appointed by former Department of Justice Attorney General Jeff Sessions to investigate the Clinton Foundation and the issues surrounding the approval to sell 20 percent of U.S. Uranium assets to Russia, declined to attend the hearing. Chairman Mark Meadows, R-NC, who oversaw the hearing stated that it was disappointment that Huber declined, leaving Congress in the dark regarding the DOJ’s investigation.

Investigations into the Clinton Foundation have always been plagued by politics but Moynihan wanted to make clear in his opening statement that this investigation was one of many his firm has conducted on nonprofits and had nothing to do with politics. 

Doyle and Moynihan have amassed 6,000 documents in their nearly two-year investigation through their private firm MDA Analytics LLC. The documents were turned over more than a year and a half ago to the IRS, according to John Solomon, who first published the report last week in The Hill.  

The investigation clearly demonstrates that the foundation was not a charitable organization per se, but in point of fact was a closely held family partnership,” said Doyle, who formerly worked on Wall Street and has been involved with finance for the last ten years conducting investigations.

“As such it was governed in a fashion in which it sought in large measure to advance the personal interests of its principals as detailed within the financial analysis of this submission and further confirmed within the supporting documentation and evidence section.”

At the onset of the hearing, Moynihan wanted to make perfectly clear that the intention to look into the Clinton Foundation was not political but based on their work with the firm.

“At this point I’d like to answer two questions, who are we? We are apolitical,” Moynihan told the committee. “We have no party affiliation to this whatsoever, No one has financed us… we are forensic investigators that approached this effort in a nonpartisan profession, objective, and independent way…we follow facts, that’s all.”

“We have never been partisan,” he added, speaking on behalf of all five members of his group testifying to Congress. “We come from law enforcement and wall street where each of us has dedicated our entire lives and praised the rule of law doing the right thing pursuing facts. we follow facts. that’s all.”
“None of this is our opinion,” he went on state.

“I emphasize none of this is our opinion. These are not our facts. They are not your facts. They are the facts of the Clinton Foundation.”

He disclosed the reason his firm decided to take on the Clinton Foundation and the fact that they paid for the investigation out of their “own pockets.”
“Are you doing this for money,” said Moynihan to the committee. “Yes, this is how we make a living.”

Moynihan and Doyle swapped back and forth between there testimony and opening statement, making it clear they were working as a team. But the most shocking statements came from Moynihan’s statement as he read the laundry list of violations by the Clinton Foundation.

Moynihan stated “Foreign agent,” as he began to read from a long list of violations discovered during the course of their investigation.

The Clinton Foundation “began acting as an agent of foreign governments ‘early in its life’ and throughout its existence. As such, the foundation should’ve registered under FARA (Foreign Agents Registration Act),” he said. “Ultimately, the Foundation and its auditors conceded in formal submissions that it did operate as a (foreign) agent, therefore the foundation is not entitled to its 501c3 tax exempt privileges as outlined in IRS 170 (c)2.

Doyle, who was also outlining a litany of violations by the foundation, noted that currently there are approximately 1.75 million nonprofits in the United states that annually generate nearly 2 trillion dollars, which is 9 percent of the U.S. GDP.

Whose minding the store, looking out for the donors and minding the rule of law,” said Doyle.

“On that note, we followed the money so we made extensive spreadsheets of their revenues and expenses, we analyzed their income statements and we did a macro-review of all the donors, which its a very (jumbled) sort of foundation,” said Doyle. “Less than 1/10th of one-percent of the donors gave 80 percent of the money. So we follow the money.” 

Moynihan added that the foundation “did pursue programs and activities for which it had neither sought nor achieved permission to undertake.” 

Particularly, he noted the case of the Clinton Presidential Library in 2004. He noted that the foundation’s role before and after library was built was a misrepresentation to donors “of the approval organizational tax status to raise funds for the presidential library programs therein. In these pursuits the foundation failed the organizational and operational task 501c3 internal revenue code 7.25.3.” 

Additionally Doyle stated that the foundation’s intentional “misuse of donated public funds.” He stated that the foundation “falsely attested that it received funds and used them for charitable purposes which was in fact not the case. Rather the foundation pursued in an array of activities both domestically and abroad.” 

“Some may be deemed philanthropic, albeit unimproved, while other much larger in scope are properly characterized as profit oriented and taxable undertakings of private enterprise again failing the operational tests philanthropy referenced above,” Doyle said. 

Philip Hackney, a tax law professor at Louisiana State University, who is a former Exempt Organizations lawyer at the IRS, and Tom Fitton, president of the conservative government watchdog group Judicial Watch also testified at the hearing. Judicial Watch has been at the forefront of fighting the Clinton Foundation in court to access documents requested by FOIA. Hackney and Fitton testified during the first panel of the hearing.

Friday, December 14, 2018

BREAKING: Obamacare ruled unconstitutional by Texas judge




The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, was struck down by a Texas judge on Friday, a move that could suddenly disrupt the health insurance status of millions of Americans. The decision comes amid six-week open enrollment period for the program.

Texas, along with 19 states, had argued to U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor that they had been hurt by a jump in the amount of people utilizing state-backed insurance. When Congress cut the tax penalty from the program in 2017, the states claimed, it essentially undercut the Supreme Court’s reasoning for finding former President Barack Obama’s signature legislation constitutional in 2012.

“The remainder of the ACA is non-severable from the individual mandate, meaning that the Act must be invalidated in whole,” O’Connor wrote, according to Bloomberg.

"As I predicted all along, Obamacare has been struck down as an UNCONSTITUTIONAL disaster," President Trump tweeted following the ruling. "Now Congress must pass a STRONG law that provides GREAT healthcare and protects pre-existing conditions. Mitch and Nancy, get it done!" In a second tweet, the president declared the ruling to be "great news for America!"

Mueller releases Flynn files showing FBI doubts over ‘lying,’ tensions over interview




Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team on Friday released key documents relating to the FBI’s questioning of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, confirming agents did not believe at the time Flynn intentionally lied to them -- though he was later charged with making false statements in that interview.

The documents also reveal that the decision to interview Flynn in early 2017 about contacts with the Russian ambassador was controversial within the Justice Department. One FBI document said then-Acting Attorney General Sally Yates “was not happy” when then-FBI Director James Comey informed her that the FBI planned to talk to Flynn. The report also said several unnamed people back at FBI headquarters “later argued about the FBI’s decision to interview Flynn.”

The documents – some of which are heavily redacted – were released in response to U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan ordering prosecutors to hand over the government's files related to the FBI’s questioning of Flynn by Friday afternoon. 

  U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan (Official Photo)

The order came after Flynn's legal team said in a filing that the FBI discouraged Flynn from bringing a lawyer to the interview and agents never advised him false statements in that setting could constitute a crime. The newly released documents confirm those claims.


The documents include then-FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe’s notes after talking with Flynn to arrange his interview with the FBI. It also includes a so-called "302" report documenting what Flynn told anti-Trump agent Peter Strzok and one other agent during their conversation at the White House. That July 2017 report, though, specifically came from an interview with Strzok in which the Flynn encounter was discussed -- and not the original Flynn interview.

Former FBI Agent Peter Strzok (Getty Image)

The 302 report stated that Strzok and the other agent “both had the impression at the time that Flynn was not lying or did not think he was lying.”

The report described Flynn as “unguarded,” saying he “clearly saw the FBI agents as allies.” It also stated Flynn discussed a number of “various subjects,” including things like hotels stayed in during the campaign, Trump’s “knack for interior design” and other issues unrelated to their inquiry.

“Flynn was so talkative, and had so much time for them, that Strzok wondered if the national security adviser did not have more important things to do than have a such a relaxed, non-pertinent discussion with them,” it said.

The document release comes days after Flynn’s legal team alleged that the FBI pushed him not to bring a lawyer to his fateful Jan. 24, 2017 interview with agents at the White House. McCabe's memo indicated he indeed discouraged Flynn from getting the White House counsel's office involved.

Recalling how the interview came about, McCabe wrote in his memo that he told Flynn by phone on Jan. 24, 2017 he had a “sensitive matter to discuss” with him, and that he and Comey wanted to send two agents over to go over his contacts with Russians, amid media reports on the subject.

Photo: (L) Former FBI Director James Comey, (R) General Michael Flynn

“He agreed and offered to meet with the agents today….I explained that I thought the quickest way to get this done was to have a conversation between him and the agents only,” McCabe wrote.

McCabe said he told Flynn that if he wanted to include lawyers from the White House counsel's office, McCabe would “need to involve the Department of Justice.”

McCabe wrote: “He stated that this would not be necessary and agreed to meet with the agents without any additional participants.”

The January 2017 interview with the FBI was the basis of Flynn’s guilty plea to making false statements in a deal with Mueller's team.

Flynn pleaded guilty to lying about whether he had talked to former Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December 2016 on limiting the Russian government's response to former President Barack Obama's recently imposed sanctions for election meddling. Flynn was pushed out of the White House shortly after his interview for misleading Vice President Pence and other officials about those contacts.

Sullivan -- who overturned the 2008 conviction of former U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens after government misconduct came to light -- is weighing how to sentence Flynn. Sullivan also had ordered the Flynn team to turn over documents backing up its assertions.


Flynn is set to be sentenced next Tuesday -- it's unclear whether that date could be delayed in connection with the new filings. Sullivan technically has the authority to toss Flynn's guilty plea and the charge against him if he concludes that the FBI interfered with Flynn's constitutional right to counsel, although he has given no indications that he intends to do so.

According to both Flynn's legal team and the newly released documents, FBI agents in his case deliberately did not instruct Flynn that any false statements he made could constitute a crime, and decided not to "confront" him directly about anything he said that contradicted their knowledge of his wiretapped communications with former Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

“Before the interview, McCabe, [redacted] and others decided the agents would not warn Flynn that it was a crime to lie during an FBI interview because they wanted Flynn to be relaxed, and they were concerned that giving the warnings might adversely affect the rapport,” the 302 report said.

Over the weekend, Comey admitted that he personally made the decision to send a pair of agents to interview Flynn in 2017, and acknowledged the arrangement was not typical for dealing with a White House official.

Asked to describe how two FBI agents ended up at the White House to interview Flynn in January 2017, Comey, speaking to MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace during a forum discussion Sunday, said flatly: “I sent them.”

Comey went on to acknowledge the way the interview was set up – not through the White House counsel’s office, but arranged directly with Flynn – was not standard practice. He called it “something I probably wouldn't have done or maybe gotten away with in a more … organized administration.”

Fox News’ Gregg Re contributed to this report.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Michael Cohen Pled Guilty to Something That Is Not a Crime


By Bradley A. Smith | National Review

Michael Cohen exits the United States Court house after his sentencing New York City, December 12, 2018. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

The prosecutor is twisting campaign-finance law.

Donald Trump’s wayward counsel, Michael Cohen, was sentenced today as part of a plea bargain with the government. As part of that settlement, Cohen has admitted to criminal violations of federal campaign-finance law and has implicated President Trump in those violations. 


The press is ablaze with headlines trumpeting the president’s possible involvement in two felony campaign-finance violations. The source of these violations are Mr. Cohen’s arranging — allegedly at Trump’s direction — hush-money payments to women alleging long-ago affairs with the 2016 presidential candidate.

The Federal Election Campaign Act holds that an “expenditure” is any “purchase, payment, loan, advance, deposit or gift of money, or anything of value, for the purpose of influencing any election for Federal office.” 

According to Cohen and the U.S. Attorney, the hush-money payments were, it appears, made in the hopes of preventing information from becoming public before the election, and hence were “for the purpose of influencing” the election. 

This means that, at a minimum, they had to be reported to the Federal Election Commission; further, if they were authorized by Mr. Trump, they would become, in the law’s parlance, “coordinated expenditures,” subject to limits on the amounts that could be spent. 

Since the lawful contribution limit is much lower than the payments made, and the payments were not reported, this looks like an open and shut case, right?

Well, no. Or at least not in the way some might presume. 

To the contrary, the law — following our common sense — tells us that the hush-money payments outlined by the U.S. Attorney are clearly not campaign expenditures. There is no violation of the Federal Election Campaign Act.

To reach the opposite conclusion, the U.S. Attorney is placing all his chips on the language “for the purpose of influencing an election.” 

Intuitively, however, we all know that such language cannot be read literally — if it were, virtually every political candidate of the past 45 years has been in near-constant violation. 

The candidate who thinks “I need to brush my teeth, shower, and put on a nice suit today in order to campaign effectively” is surely not required to report as campaign expenditures his purchases of toothpaste, soap, and clothing.

When he eats his Wheaties — breakfast of champions, and surely one cannot campaign on an empty stomach — his cereal and milk are not campaign expenses. 

When he drives to his office to start making phone calls to supporters, his gas is not a campaign expense.

So what does it mean to be “for the purpose of influencing an[] election”? 

To understand this, we read the statutory language in conjunction other parts of the statute. 

Here the key is the statute’s prohibition on diverting campaign funds to “personal use.” 

This is a crucial distinction, because one of the primary factors separating campaign funds from personal funds is that the former must be spent on the candidate’s campaign, while the latter can be used to buy expensive vacations, cars, watches, furs, and such. 

The law defines “personal use” as spending “used to fulfill any commitment, obligation, or expense of a person that would exist irrespective of the candidate’s election campaign.” 

So a candidate may intend for good toothpaste and soap, a quality suit, and a healthy breakfast to positively influence his election, but none of those are campaign expenditures, because all of those purchases would typically be made irrespective of running for office. 

And even if the candidate might not have brushed his teeth quite so often or would have bought a cheaper suit absent the campaign, these purchases still address his underlying obligations of maintaining hygiene and dressing himself.

To use a more pertinent example, imagine a wealthy entrepreneur who decides to run for office. 

Like many men and women with substantial business activities, at any one time there are likely several lawsuits pending against him personally, or against those various businesses. 

The candidate calls in his company attorney: “I want all outstanding lawsuits against our various enterprises settled.” 

His lawyer protests that the suits are without merit — the company should clearly win at trial, and he should protect his reputation of not settling meritless lawsuits.

“I agree that these suits lack merit,” says our candidate, “but I don’t want them as a distraction during the campaign, and I don’t want to take the risk that the papers will use them to portray me as a heartless tycoon. Get them settled.”

The settlements in this hypothetical are made “for the purpose of influencing the election,” yet they are not “expenditures” under the Federal Election Campaign Act. 

Indeed, if they were, the candidate would have to pay for them with campaign funds. 

Thus, an unscrupulous but popular businessman could declare his candidacy, gather contributions from the public, use those contributions to settle various preexisting lawsuits, and then withdraw from the race. A nice trick!

But in fact, the contrary rule prevails, because the candidate’s obligation to resolve the business’s lawsuits exists “irrespective” of the campaign. 

Similarly, any payments made to women by Mr. Trump or his associates are independent of the campaign.

To this intuitively obvious fact — very few people would think paying hush money is a legitimate campaign expenditure — those eager to hang a charge on Mr. Trump typically respond that he made the payments when he did because of the looming election. 

That may be true, but note that the same is true of the entrepreneur, who instructs his counsel to settle the lawsuits pending against him. Further, note that in both cases, while the candidate has no legal obligation to pay at all, the events that give rise to the claim against him are unrelated to the campaign for office. 

Paying them may help the campaign, but the obligations exist “irrespective” of the run for office. Mr. Trump’s alleged decade-old affairs occurred long before he became a candidate for president and were not caused by his run for president.

Further clinching the case, in writing its implementing regulations for the statute, the Federal Election Commission specifically rejected a proposal that an expense could be considered a campaign expenditure if it were merely “primarily related to the candidate’s campaign.” 

This was done specifically to prevent candidates from claiming that things that benefitted them personally were done because they would also benefit the campaign. 

And with that in mind, it is worth noting Mr. Cohen’s sentencing statement, in which he writes that he “felt obligated to assist [Trump], on [Trump’s] instruction, to attempt to prevent Woman-1 and Woman-2 from disseminating narratives that would adversely affect the Campaign and cause personal embarrassment to Client-1 and his family.”

Certainly Mr. Trump had many valid, non-electoral reasons for trying to keep these allegations quiet, most notably family harmony, protecting family members (especially his young son, Baron), and preserving his future viability as a television personality in case he lost the election. 

Indeed, it is quite probable that many of those now baying for Trump’s scalp for illegal campaign contributions would be leading a charge to prosecute Trump for illegal “personal use” of campaign funds had he made the payments from his campaign treasury.

Finally, by ignoring these other parts of the statute and its implementing regulations (which carry the force of law), the prosecutors attempt to make the “for the purpose of influencing any election” language a subjective test that would, but for the plea bargain, be decided by a jury. 

But that is incorrect. The test is intended as an objective test of campaign-related expenditures.

Renting campaign office space, printing bumper stickers and yard signs, hiring campaign staff, paying for polling, and buying broadcast ads are all obligations that exist for the purpose of influencing an election. Paying hush money to silence allegations of decade-old affairs is not.

When faced with the vague, sweepingly broad “for the purpose of influencing any election” language, the Supreme Court has consistently restricted its reach to brightly defined rules. 

For example, in determining whether a public message was an “expenditure” made “for the purpose of influencing any election,” it has construed the later phrase to apply only to messages “expressly advocating” the election or defeat of a candidate, such as “vote for,” “vote against,” “defeat,” “re-elect,” and the like, or to other clearly defined messages that are the “functional equivalent” of that express advocacy.

In short, Michael Cohen is pleading guilty to something that isn’t a crime. Of course, people will do that when a zealous prosecutor is threatening them with decades in prison. But his admissions are not binding on President Trump, and Trump should fight these charges ferociously.

Many Americans have convinced themselves that Trump is a uniquely dangerous and bad man, such that any available tool should be used to expel him from office. But in that way lies the bigger threat to our democracy and rule of law.

In A Man for All Seasons, Sir Thomas More’s future son-in-law, Roper, states that he would “cut down every law in England” if it would enable him to catch the devil. 

To which More responds:

"And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!"

We do ourselves no service by distorting and misapplying our campaign-finance laws in the hope of bagging Donald Trump.

Bradley A. Smith — Bradley A. Smith, a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission, is chairman of the Institute for Free Speech and a visiting fellow in the James Madison Program at Princeton.