Dan Bongino told listeners on Monday that President Donald Trump should not receive a prison sentence even if he is found to have committed alleged campaign finance violations during his 2016 presidential campaign. Bongino said that the alleged breaches of campaign finance law were mere “civil violations,” and that Barack Obama “did the exact same thing.”
On Fox News’ “Fox & Friends,” show host Brian Kilmeade said, “There were two women coming forward that were going to say negative things about the president and relations. If you are running for office, whether it’s a bad business deal where you have a bitter partner, you want to make sure things are going the best you can to keep your eye on the ball and things on the issues.”
President Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen paid Stephanie Clifford a.k.a. Stormy Daniels and model Karen McDougal more than $100,000 each to stay silent about their alleged affairs. He told investigators working with Special Counsel Robert Mueller that he made the payments “at the direction” of erstwhile candidate Trump. Cohen pleaded guilty to a criminal violation Kilmeade said of the arrangement, “That’s an election law violation,” and added, “According to everybody’s stats, Barack Obama’s campaign spent nearly $2 million in violations of election law. They got a fine of $300,000. But you want to throw this president in jail about payments to women that they may or may not have known about! We should just accept that?”
“What you just said is factually correct,” Bongino answered. “The Barack Obama team was guilty of the exact same thing and was given a civil fine.… But because it’s Barack Obama—you know, the anointed one—nothing happened.” While the FEC is an independent body that cannot prosecute criminal cases, it did not refer Obama’s case to the Department of Justice.
On Monday, Trump tweeted, “Democrats can’t find a Smoking Gun,” and added, “So now the Dems go to a simple private transaction, wrongly call it a campaign contribution.” Back in August, Trump compared Cohen’s violation of campaign law to the violation committed by the Obama campaign, saying that the case was “easily settled.” Trump wrote: “Michael Cohen plead guilty to two counts of campaign finance violations that are not a crime. President Obama had a big campaign finance violation and it was easily settled!” The president has repeatedly said that Cohen lied in order to obtain a lighter sentence. Trump tweeted on Monday that the payments to actress Clifford and model McDougal were “were simple private transaction[s].”
In 2012, the Federal Election Commission fined Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign $375,000 for violations reporting rules. It involved the reporting of donations made in the 20 days just before the election as required by the FEC, which demands that any contribution exceeding $1,000 must be submitted as an official notice within 48 hours after receipt.
A sentencing memo that was released Friday evening showed that federal prosecutors from the Southern District of New York argued that Cohen “played a central role” in a scheme supposedly directed by Trump to hush both of the two women with whom he supposedly had affairs, “thereby prevent them from influencing the election.”
“Cohen acted with the intent to influence the 2016 presidential election,” the SDNY wrote in the sentencing memo. “Cohen coordinated his actions with one or more members of the campaign, including through meetings and phone calls, about the fact, nature, and timing of the payments.”
On Fox News, legal analyst Andrew McCarthy said on “Fox and Friends” that Trump, who has yet to face a criminal charge, will ultimately be indicted. Speaking about Mueller’s investigation, McCarthy said, “It’s clear that Trump is the target, and that he’ll be indicted eventually.”
However, the network’s senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano said of Trump on Monday, “My view is that he can be indicted but cannot be prosecuted until leaving office because the disruption to the government of the prosecution would be far more than the Constitution tolerates.” Napolitano said. While there has been much conjecture that Trump may be indicted while in office, previous memos drafted by the Justice Department during impeachment proceedings against Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton warned against such indictments because of president’s responsibilities while in office. While the Supreme Court has never ruled on the subject, Napolitano said that Trump would not be prosecuted until after he leaving office.
In addition, Napolitano expressed concern that an indictment against Trump would lead to lengthy litigation. “I think they'll fight both all the way to the Supreme Court,” he said on Fox News. “They’ll lose on the subpoena because the Supreme Court has already ruled on that. I don't know where they'll go on the indictment, if an indictment comes.”
Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.