The mainstream media is having a heyday proclaiming the news that Michael Cohen, who worked as President Trump’s lawyer during the 2016 presidential campaign, pleaded guilty to campaign law violations and is willing to provide information to Special Counsel Robert Mueller related to the Russia probe.
However, as experts who have examined the case are already pointing out, the recent revelations really aren’t going to cause President Trump a host of legal problems. In fact, they are almost a non-issue as far as the law is concerned.
The first big problem for Trump opponents is the fact that the Department of Justice has already clearly stated that the Constitution does not allow for the criminal indictment of a sitting president. The statements were issued in 1973 and again in 2000; they are viewed as set policy and even Robert Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein have deferred to them, making it clear back in May that President Trump would not be indicted no matter what the results are in the ongoing Russia investigation.
Naturally, lack of a criminal indictment does not mean that Congress cannot use this latest bit of news to try to impeach the President, an outcome that could very well become reality should the Democrats take the House back in November. However, impeachment proceedings based on the news that President Trump’s payments to two women back in 2016 might have been illegal are not guaranteed even if the highly anticipated “blue wave” becomes reality. Democrat Minority leader Nancy Pelosi has already said outright that any impeachment proceedings against the president would need to be based on something else. Perhaps the reason for her reticence is the fact that she remembers the fact that former President Barack Obama was found guilty of campaign finance violations back in 2008, and forced to pay nearly $400,000 in fines to the Federal Election Commission.
There is also the very real fact that President Trump’s payments to accusers back in 2016 may not have actually broken any laws. While Michael Cohen has agreed to plead guilty to campaign violations based on these two payments, a plea deal does not always necessarily mean that the person who is pleading guilty is actually guilty; it simply means that the individual in question thinks he or she may be found guilty and/or wants to avoid the pain, hassle and expense of a lengthy trial.
While the prosecution of the Southern District of New York is making it sound like Michael Cohen did something horribly wrong to influence the election, legal experts point out that influencing an election is not in and of itself illegal. Paying off an accuser is also not inherently illegal; in fact, individuals and companies often pay money as part of non-disclosure agreements. Doing so allows everyone involved to go their own way without having to take legal action against each other.
Michael Cohen’s decision to turn on President Trump is certainly newsworthy; however, it does not really spell doom for the president. In fact, he really has nothing to worry about as he cannot be criminally indicted while in office and the latest revelations will probably not result in his impeachments.
While Mr. Cohen’s lawyer is now claiming that his client has evidence that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 election, he has not produced any evidence to that effect. If and when such evidence comes to light, Robert Mueller and his team would likely need to examine it carefully before putting too much weight on it in order to avoid the same mistake that Trump’s enemies made with the now-discredited Steele dossier. In the meantime, however, Mr. Mueller is clearly not terribly impressed with Mr. Cohen’s statements, evidenced by his decision to refer the case to New York for prosecution rather than handling the allegations as federal charges.
While the entire story makes for a salacious read and is sure to energize anti-Trump activists, the truth is that recent events don’t really put the President in legal jeopardy in any way, shape or form.
~ Liberty Planet