When the FEC announced yesterday that it wasn’t taking any punitive action against Donald Trump for his illegal use of campaign funds in relation to the Stormy Daniels scandal, there was quite a bit of doomsday hysteria about how Trump is “getting away with it all.” Palmer Report explained that the FEC can’t take any meaningful punitive action against anyone anyway, and that this was always going to come down to actual prosecutors prosecuting him for it.
Now a Palmer Report reader has spotted something in the fine print from the FEC ruling that does in fact help set up Trump’s criminal prosecution. The FEC’s Office of General Counsel concluded that Donald Trump’s campaign finance violations were “knowing and willful” (on page six here). This will make it a lot easier for prosecutors to decide to indict Trump in relation to the campaign finance violation, because it sharply increases the odds of getting a conviction.
As we explained last night, campaign finance violations are a violation of federal law. It’s still not clear if the DOJ is going to bring a criminal case against Donald Trump, though the Biden-era DOJ has been quite aggressive thus far with its cases against the likes of Rudy Giuliani and Derek Chauvin. The DOJ likes only pursue cases with a very high probability of conviction. This FEC ruling could make it an easier decision for the DOJ to go after Trump for this.
Even if the DOJ doesn’t move against Trump for this, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office has a wide ranging criminal case going against Trump for various financial crimes. The DA can easily charge Trump with a variety of illegal aspects of the campaign finance payoff, when it moves to indict him on the other crimes. Trump is on a path to state prison in New York; we’ll see if his campaign finance scandal is included as a part of that.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report