Trump cites ‘massive’ Obama campaign finance violation.
President Donald Trump suggested Wednesday that the campaign finance violations his former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty to in federal court are equivalent to campaign finance violations committed by Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign.
“If you look at President Obama, he had a massive campaign violation, but he had a different attorney general, and they viewed it a lot different,” Trump said in an interview with Fox Business.
Earlier Wednesday the president had tweeted: “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!”
But there is no comparison, experts told NBC News. Cohen’s admitted campaign finance law violations are indeed a crime, and they are not similar to the campaign finance violations made by Obama’s 2008 campaign. Election law experts said that more minor violations are treated as regulatory or civil matters, while egregious and willful campaign finance violations are treated as criminal acts — no matter who the attorney general is.
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 22, 2018
“What Michael Cohen has admitted to doing is absolutely a crime,” said Mitchell Epner, a former federal prosecutor who is now of counsel at Rottenberg Lipman Rich P.C.
Cohen, who was Trump’s longtime lawyer, pleaded guilty to violating two campaign finance rules — willfully causing a corporate finance violation and making an excessive campaign contribution. Each charge carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and involved hush-money payments to two women who said they had relationships with Trump.