Hush payments: How did Trump avoid charges?
“Yet another legal cloud over President Trump has lifted,” said Andrew Prokop in Vox.com. Federal prosecutors from the Southern District of New York (SDNY) revealed last week that they’ve closed their investigation into the Trump campaign’s hush payments to Trump’s alleged mistresses, yet why that probe “fizzled out in recent months remains mysterious.” Trump fixer Michael Cohen is in prison partly for breaking campaign finance laws, which he said he did at Trump’s “direction”; newly unsealed documents show that Trump had a flurry of phone calls with Cohen about payments for Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal days before the 2016 election. Yet prosecutors reportedly felt handcuffed by Justice Department guidelines against indicting a sitting president, which also would have required proving Trump knew the payoffs were illegal—“a tall order.” Still, with Attorney General William Barr getting confirmed just before this probe died, Democrats are right to be asking whether “everything’s aboveboard here.”
Trump isn’t the only one who escaped justice, said Elie Honig in CNN.com. Hope Hicks, his confidante and former communications aide, told the House Judiciary Committee that she “had no direct knowledge about Michael Cohen’s payments to Stormy Daniels,” but the phone logs show she checked in with Cohen constantly as he spoke with Trump and executives at the National Enquirer about plans to pay off the porn star. After a news article detailing the arrangement failed to provoke much attention or outrage, Hicks texted Cohen, “Keep praying!! It’s working!” What a huge letdown for the Left, said David Rutz in FreeBeacon.com. Some liberal pundits were certain that the SDNY was digging into the Trump Organization itself, because it made the payments to Daniels, and claimed that investigation “was of greater peril to Trump than Mueller’s Russia probe.” The danger turns out to be wildly overhyped.
Trump seemed genuinely petrified by the Mueller probe and Cohen case, said Paul Waldman in The Washington Post, but he “won’t be so worried” next time. He has now seen that his sexual assault of women, payoffs to mistresses, massive tax fraud to get his father’s money, and eager acceptance of Russia’s election interference did not get him indicted or impeached, or hurt his popularity with his ardent fan base. Whatever shocking new information emerges in the future, Trump will be confident the scandal will quickly fade, and that “he’ll survive it just as he has all the others.”