The liberal case for impeaching Donald Trump, such as it is, seems to revolve around alleged campaign finance violations committed when he paid for non-disclosure agreements with women who alleged they had affairs or sexual encounters with him.
This doesn’t have to do with Russian interference, but it’s unclear that the special counsel was ever much interested in that.
However, is what President Trump did a crime? In an appearance on Fox News on Friday, former Democrat Chief Counsel Julian Epstein has said he’s not particularly sure that it is.
The contention, for those of you tuning in late, is that Trump’s payment for non-disclosure agreements with the women was a campaign-related expense and his failure to disclose it represents a crime.
Trump supporters, meanwhile, would contend that the NDAs were personal expenses, not campaign expenses. Trump has paid for NDAs before he was running for president, after all; should the fact that he secured them during the election cycle somehow constitute proof that this was a campaign finance violation?
Epstein, who served as the chief counsel to the Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee during the Clinton impeachment in 1998, told host Shannon Bream on “Fox News @ Night” that he is “skeptical” that, from what we’ve seen so far, Trump violated the law.
“I just think that the statute is not clear,” Epstein said.
“I think if it were a campaign finance violation — paying hush money to avoid embarrassing information — the statute should be clear that’s what a violation is.
“The statute isn’t clear, and further the regulations … the FEC has adopted are also really not clear.”
Epstein also compared it to a similar period in our recent history.
“During the Clinton impeachment, I and a lot of progressives and Democrats were arguing the president isn’t above the law, but he’s also not beneath the law and that Clinton shouldn’t be prosecuted in that case because civil perjury in that situation would have never been prosecuted,” Epstein said.
“Some of that reasoning stands here as well.”
Beyond the fact that the Clinton impeachment actually had to do with something more than civil perjury, the point about the president not being beneath the law still stands.
In any other case, this would have been handled via monetary penalties and/or reporting amendments to campaign expenditures. Instead, the left has suddenly decided that any sort of campaign finance violation is now a very dire crime. (Naturally, this sort of draconian outlook was missing during former President Barack Obama’s administration.)
The segment was notable because it was also one of the rare instances of cable news debates where both sides of the ideological aisle agreed.
Hans Von Spakovsky, a former Federal Elections Commission member under George W. Bush, said that there weren’t any grounds under the law to impeach the president.
“The fact is that neither the FEC, the Federal Election Commission, nor former chairs of the commission believe that paying hush money is a campaign-related expense,” Spakovsky said.
“It’s a personal expense. It’s the same as a business expense of a business owner. It’s not related to the campaign.”
And, both felt that Trump’s opposition would be “celebrating too early” if they thought this would take him down.
Then again, when the left has felt from the beginning of the Trump administration that impeachment was a fait accompli, you get a better idea of why this is being seized upon.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.