While Robert Mueller’s Trump-Russia probe continues its inexorable course to Donald Trump’s ultimate demise, there may be a shorter route based on what is already known about Trump’s sexual escapades and Michael Cohen’s attempts to “fix” them before the election. When Trump’s Stormy Daniels hush money scandal broke, we learned that Cohen formed Essential Consultants, LLC (“EC”) just before the 2016 presidential election for the purpose of preventing Daniels from releasing information about her affair with Trump, referred to in a nondisclosure agreement as “David Denison.”
52 U.S.C.§ 30101(8)(A) provides: The term “contribution” includes— (i) any gift, subscription, loan, advance, or deposit of money or anything of value made by any person for the purpose of influencing any election for Federal office.
11 CFR § 100.52 explains “the term anything of value includes all in-kind contributions.”
Accordingly, concealing information that could affect opinions of Trump could have influenced the presidential election, and so constituted something of value and therefore, a campaign contribution.
52 U.S.C. § 30122 provides, “No person shall make a contribution in the name of another person or knowingly permit his name to be used to effect such a contribution and no person shall knowingly accept a contribution made by one person in the name of another person.”
Whether the hush money came from Cohen or ultimately from Trump, either way using EC to make the payment results in a violation of § 30122.
This week, a tape emerged from just before the 2016 presidential election where we heard Michael Cohen and Donald Trump discussing the acquisition of the rights to certain deleterious information about Trump’s affair with Karen McDougal through the formation of a new LLC using cash, “no no no no no” sorry, a check, to finance the LLC. Michael Avenatti also revealed that he is representing at least three more silenced women in addition to Stormy Daniels, who may have tales to tell about Donald Trump. If these various women received payments for the purpose of keeping them silent to prevent their stories from having an adverse impact on the Trump campaign, then these various payments may also constitute unreported campaign contributions. If these agreements are structured like Stormy Daniels’ agreement, with payments flowing through an LLC, once again § 30122 is violated.
Stormy Daniels was paid $130,000. Karen MacDougal was paid $150,000. Under 52 U.S.C. § 30109(D), a person who knowingly violates § 30122 in an aggregate amount over $25,000 faces up to two years in prison and a fine of not less than 300 percent and up to 1000 percent of the contribution amount. This means that with Daniels and MacDougal alone, Cohen could face two years in prison plus $2.8 million in fines. If the other three women Avenatti represents have comparable nondisclosure agreements, Cohen could face over $6 million in fines. David Dennison may be able to afford to pay $6 million in fines, but Cohen probably would be better off flipping. Bruce C. Cohen is the author of the Missouri Defendant’s Procedural Warfare Manual
Bruce C. Cohen is an attorney and the author of Missouri Defendant’s Procedural Warfare Manual. He also writes fiction as Charlie Kenmore and Ken Charles.